Why This Matters: There’s still room in broadcast syndication for scripted procedurals, provided distributors can make the deals work.
As with Law & Order and spinoffs Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NBCUniversal is getting plenty of mileage out of Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise, starting with Chicago PD.
This fall, Chicago PD will be the first non-Law & Order-branded scripted strip to launch in broadcast syndication since 2007, Sean O’Boyle, executive VP of syndication sales, NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, said.
The show is sold to stations covering 95% of the U.S. in two-year, all-barter deals, with stations keeping nine minutes of barter advertising inventory per episode and NBCU keeping six minutes, O’Boyle said. Stations can single-or double-run the episodes five nights per week, with an option to air episodes on weekends.
Station groups acquiring the show include Fox Television Stations, Graham Media Group, Gray Television, Hearst Television, Heartland Media, Hubbard Broadcasting, Meredith, Mission Broadcasting, News Press & Gazette, Nexstar Media Group, Northwest Broadcasting, Quincy Media, Raycom, Sagamore Hill Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Sunbeam Television, Sunbelt Television, Tegna, Tribune Media, Waypoint Media, Weigel Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting.
Chicago PD will air in relatively strong time slots on many of the Fox-owned stations — at 11 a.m. and noon on WWOR New York; at 4 p.m. on KCOP Los Angeles; at 10 p.m. on WPWR Chicago; at 11 p.m. on KDFI Dallas; and at 1 p.m. on WDCA Washington, D.C. The Fox stations also will air the show multiple times on weekends.
In addition, Chicago PD is getting a double-run in primetime on Fox-owned MyNetwork TV on Tuesday nights starting in September, the network announced earlier this month. Chicago PD joins other NBCUniversal-produced series Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Dateline on MyNetwork TV, with CI airing on Monday nights and Dateline entering its second season on Wednesday nights. MyNetwork TV also airs CBS Television Distribution’s The Good Wife and CSI: Miami on Thursday and Friday nights. Distributors split revenue evenly with MyNetwork on shows that air in primetime.
Into the ‘Dateline’ Gap
The repackaged syndicated version of Dateline bridged a gap for NBCUniversal and its TV-station clients between the time when the company brought out Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent and now with Chicago PD. Dateline is performing relatively well, averaging a 1.3 household ratings average, according to Nielsen, in broadcast syndication and a 3.3 in households on MyNetwork TV in prime.
“Dateline has worked very well for us,” O’Boyle said. “We’re the only distributor to bring out something like that. We always look at what our company has and consider the impact it might have on this fragmented TV marketplace.”
Other than crime procedurals, scripted hours have generally left broadcast syndication. Repeats of serialized dramas don’t perform well on linear television and have largely moved to streaming platforms, where viewers can binge-watch them at their leisure. Procedurals — shows where people can tune in, watch one episode and conclude the story — do better in syndication but cable networks have, for the most part, paid hefty license fees to scoop up these types of shows. Because Chicago PD airs on NBCUniversal-owned Oxygen, which recently rebranded into a destination for true crime, the distributor was able to carve out a window to bring the show to broadcast syndication.
“A classic police procedural like Chicago PD really checked all the boxes,” said O’Boyle, who expects Chicago Fire and Chicago Med to follow suit. “Stations still need quality scripted content. We’ve been able to get cooperation with our cable deal to allow this show to run in broadcast syndication.”
Chicago Fire, now headed into season seven on NBC, was actually the first show in the franchise, followed by PD, which is entering season six. Chicago Med is starting its fourth season on the network. A fourth show in the franchise, Chicago Justice, only ran for one season.
Chicago PD, which focuses on Det. Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) and his intelligence team, was created by Dick Wolf and Matt Olmstead and developed by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt. Other executive producers include Rick Eid, Peter Jankowski, Arthur Forney and Terry Miller. Chicago PD is produced by Wolf Entertainment in association with Universal Television. Besides Beghe, the show stars Jon Seda, Sophia Bush, Jesse Lee Soffer, Patrick John Flueger, Marina Squerciati, Elias Koteas, LaRoyce Hawkins, Amy Morton and Tracy Spiridakos.