'Half' Off

Cable rejects deal to divvy sitcom with stations
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Warner Bros. failed to pull off its
unprecedented payday that it had hoped for with the sale of its off-network
sitcom Two and a Half
Men
.

Cable networks declined a deal in which they would pay a premium to
launch the comedy simultaneously with broadcast in fall 2007. (That arrangement
would have been an industry first.) Cable-network execs say Warner Bros. have
now returned with a more traditional offer: $1.5 million-$2 million per episode
for a standard cable launch during the sitcom's fourth year in broadcast
syndication.

Whether Warner Bros' difficulty stops other comedy suppliers from
going for a similar plan could hinge on the intensity of market demand for a
particular show. For the moment, though, strong sitcoms are in short
supply.

Warner Bros. had wagered that basic-cable networks, which, like
USA, have substantially increased their series-
acquisition and original-programming budgets in lieu of major film purchases,
would be more amenable to paying top price for the chance to get
Men at the same time as
stations.

But when they didn't bite, Warner Bros. lost some of the bargaining
leverage it hoped to gain with stations. It is in the midst of intense
negotiations with Tribune and
Fox over Men, and the price that one of them winds up paying in
the nation's largest markets will largely determine what smaller groups will
be willing to spend.

A studio spokesman says there is a “great deal of interest” in
Men and expects a deal with Fox or Tribune
to be announced in the “coming weeks.” On the cable side, such networks as
TBS, Comedy
Central
and Nick at Nite are
considered to be players for the reruns.

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