Creek bubblin' green

'Network-maker' drama to get $1M+ per episode in syndication

Next up on the suddenly hot off-network–drama block: Dawson's Creek. Columbia TriStar Television Distribution is taking The WB drama into the off-network syndication market this month, looking to land a weekday cable home and possibly simultaneous local station airings for the weekend.

Dawson's Creek, which debuted on The WB in January 1998, will be available for fall 2002, according to CTTD executives. And sources say there is interest from a broad range of national cable outlets, including USA Network and TNT/TBS.

Other networks in the hunt are Fox Family Channel, MTV Networks, Lifetime and possibly Oxygen. Former WB executives Jamie Kellner and Garth Ancier, who now run Turner Broadcasting System, may have a special interest in the series—after all, they nurtured it. A Turner spokesman had no comment.

What Columbia TriStar will get for the series—which is popular with young adults—is unclear. However, the stakes on the off-network drama front have gone up dramatically over the past month.

Within the past four weeks, The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have all contracted deals with cable networks involving more than a million dollars per episode. The West Wing went to Bravo for $1.2 million per episode, SVU is headed to USA Network for $1.4 million and CSI garnered over $1.5 million from TNN, sources say. Syndication executives expect Dawson's Creek to command over $1 million per episode as well.

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution President Steve Mosko wouldn't speculate on what kind of money the series will make but was quick to point out Dawson's strong track record on The WB.

"If you look back historically at The WB, they went on the air in 1995, and UPN beat up on them for some time," Mosko recalls. "When Dawson's debuted in 1998, it really brought The WB to the next level, bringing in a whole new group of young adults to the network. It's a show that was really a network-maker."

Dawson's Creek, which is renewed on The WB through next season, was the network's highest-rated series among young adults in both the 1998-99 season and the 1999-2000 season.

This year, Dawson's is averaging a 2.9 rating/9 share among viewers 12-34, remaining The WB's highest-rated series in the demo, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show's Web site receives the most traffic of any scripted TV series, and the series has also spawned a clothing line, among other things.