Creative deals for Becker


Paramount Domestic Television has cleared its latest off-network entry, Becker, in close to 50% of the U.S. The series will debut in fall 2003.

Sources confirm that Paramount has done group deals with both the Sinclair Broadcast Group and the co-owned Paramount stations that are now part of the CBS-owned TV stations division. Paramount also has reportedly sold the show to some Gannett stations. Post-Newsweek's WJXT(TV) Jacksonville, Fla., the CBS affiliate that is going independent, has also cleared the show.

Paramount executives declined to talk about their progress in selling the show, citing ongoing negotiations.

But station sources say Paramount has a marketing plan that makes the program easier to buy in still uncertain economic times for many broadcasters. First, there's a four-year cap on the first off-net cycle, unlike a lot of sitcom deals that go five years or longer, adding a year to the off-network package for each additional year the show continues its network run.

Station executives say that planning is a lot easier when they know ahead of time exactly how long they're committed to off-network shows.

In addition, the barter split on the show gives Paramount two minutes of national time per episode to sell, with five minutes of local time for the stations. Most of the newer off-network packages have no more than 90 seconds of national time. But Paramount is also accepting smaller weekly license fees as a quid pro quo for the extra barter time, which is appealing to stations. "Both the cap and the financial terms make for an easier deal in times that are still a little shaky," said one station source.

is heading into its fifth year on CBS. During its first four seasons, it was part of the network's popular 8-10 p.m. ET comedy block on Monday nights. Next season, the show moves to Sundays at 8:30 p.m., where it will serve as the lead-out for the new sitcom Bram and Alice.