'House' on Fire

NBC U licenses drama, mulls Office strategy

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has licensed House to Fox stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago for a double run on weekends beginning in fall 2008. And fresh off The Office's Emmy win, NBC U is starting to think about a syndication strategy for the hot comedy.

After closing barter deals with WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles and WFLD Chicago, NBC U Senior VP and General Sales Manager Sean O'Boyle is setting his sights on new deals. While Fox stations are a natural target given the success of House in primetime, he will be selling market-by-market. “I'm sure you'll see a lot of Fox stations, but I'm sure it will be on a station from just about every group as well,” he says.

The timing looks good after House enjoyed a big season premiere last week. The Hugh Laurie drama posted a 7.2 rating/20 share in the adult 18-49 demo, the highest number ever for the show without an American Idol lead-in.

But O'Boyle notes that House has been hot for a while. “[A big premiere] is always good for the show,” he says, “but people knew it was a hit 10 months ago.”

House reruns were previously sold to in-house cable networks USA and Bravo for a reported $1.4 million per episode.

NBC U is also pondering a distribution strategy for The Office as it looks to capitalize on its Emmy buzz. “The marketplace has been asking about it, and certainly the Emmy doesn't hurt,” O'Boyle says. “A show like that should have a nice afterlife in syndication.”

But he doesn't want to speculate on whether a syndication debut could be ready for 2008 or 2009, especially with a limited number of episodes available.

Entering its third season, The Office only has 28 episodes in the can, well short of the 100 usually needed for syndication. NBC aired six in the program's first year and 22 last season, then another 22 for this season.

NBC U also said last week that sales of Monk to local stations have hit 80% for weekend runs beginning in the fall of 2008. After previous deals with WNBC New York, KNBC Los Angeles and WFLD, the quirky USA drama has now been sold to stations WPHL Philadelphia, WSBK Boston, KNTV San Francisco, WFAA Dallas, WTTG Washington, KPRC Houston and KOMO Seattle.

Monk, whose star Tony Shalhoub recently won his third Emmy, has been sold to stations from groups NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, Hearst-Argyle, Tribune, Fisher, Scripps, Raycom, Belo and Post-Newsweek.