Walt Disney Co. is hoping cable networks will be desperate for a bona fide hit. It is asking a rich price for cable rights to ABC hit Desperate Housewives: $1.2 million per episode.
Disney unit Buena Vista Television (BVT) is pitching the series to cable networks for fall 2008. Networks won’t have to give up any ad time for Buena Vista to sell, but the syndicator is reserving the right for all-barter weekend runs on broadcast stations.
Industry executives say the show is being shopped to Turner Broadcasting and A&E—which are generally bidders for any strong hour-long series that comes off broadcast—plus E!, Oxygen and WE—which gear their programming toward women. Two Disney-owned channels—Lifetime Television (50%-owned) and ABC Family—are also receiving pitches. It’s not clear which might actually bid.
Some network executives say they were surprised by Buena Vista’s asking price. Serialized shows tend not to repeat well and so don’t typically attract big prices. A&E paid a rock-bottom $250,000 per episode for Fox’s serialized thriller 24.
Housewives’ ratings shrink dramatically—sometimes by half—when ABC airs reruns. Nevertheless, even repeats tend to finish first or second in its Sunday-night time slot.
Some cable-network executives predict that it won’t reach its price goal. One who doesn’t plan to bid estimates that it will reap $700,000-$800,000 per episode. An executive at another network sees the show as fetching just $200,000-$300,000.
Cable’s biggest checks go for dramas whose plotlines wrap up in each episode, such as the $1.9 million USA Network and Bravo are paying for NBC’s Law & Order: CI(an all-in-the-corporate-family deal) or the $1.4 million TNT is paying for CBS’ Cold Case.
A BVT spokeswoman, citing a policy against commenting on “past or present” negotiations, confirms that “we are currently in the marketplace with Desperate Housewives and it has been very well received.”
Housewives is the first of a trio of ABC shows BVT is bringing to market. Next up is Lost—once mighty but now getting clobbered on Wednesday nights by Fox’s American Idol—and Sunday-night star Grey’s Anatomy.