King picks up pace in syndie - Broadcasting & Cable

King picks up pace in syndie

Columbia TriStar gets brisk sales response for its off-net sitcom available in 2003
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In just weeks of actively selling the show, Columbia TriStar Domestic Television has sold the off-network rights to King of Queens
to 154 stations covering 55% of the country, including 15 of the top 20 markets.

No deals yet in the top three markets, but it appears to be just a matter of time because sources say that CTDT has multiple offers in each of the three.

That being the case, the company won't be rushed into deals, says one distribution executive because stations realize the show (part of the CBS Monday-night sitcom block) is perhaps the last broad-appeal sitcom that will be entering the market for a while.

That's probably true, says Bill Carroll, vice president, programming, for the Katz Television Group.

King of Queens
will debut in 2003 (along with Becker, also more than 50% sold). After that comes Fox's Malcolm in the Middle
(2004) and My Wife and Kids
(2005).

Malcolm
will definitely go to syndication. My Wife and Kids, produced by Disney, may go to stations but could also end up on co-owned ABC Family on cable.

Columbia TriStar has deals with the CBS/Paramount TV group, Sinclair, Acme, Pegasus, Scripps Howard, Raycom, Post-Newsweek, Clear Channel, Bahakel, Hubbard and Capitol Broadcasting. The company also has a deal with The WB's 100-plus group of affiliates in smaller markets, where the network is delivered on cable-like channels.

According to John Wieser, executive vice president of CTDT, The WB 100-plus group (covering 15% of the U.S.) will double-run the program in consistent time periods. Giving the show "aggressive pricing and really special promotional platforms," he said, "they want to embrace it as the centerpiece for their programming next year."

Several stations buying the show plan to use it as a companion to either
Everybody Loves Raymond
or Seinfeld, Weiser says.

Columbia has also struck some creative deals with duopoly stations, which have negotiated the right to air the show on two stations simultaneously (in different time periods, of course), or on one station and then the other.

"A lot of duopoly managers want to run King of Queens
on their affiliate for a couple of years before they move it to an independent or co-launch it on both," says Weiser. CBS has negotiated duopoly rights along those lines in Philadelphia (KYW-TV/WPSG[TV]) and Boston (WBZ-TV/WSBK-TV), and Sinclair has done so in Baltimore (WBFF[TV]/WNUV[TV]).

"Sometimes people look at the duopoly situation as being a negative for the seller in a market," says Steve Mosko, president, CTDT. "But it actually opens up some opportunities," despite the common ownership.

"As the world changes, the way you go about selling shows changes," he said. In some duopoly situations, the show will air on one station in access and on the co-owned station in late fringe.

Other stations clearing the show include KSTW(TV) Seattle, KSTP-TV Minneapolis, WOIO(TV) Cleveland, KMAX-TV Sacramento, KDKA-TV Pittsburgh, KPLR-TV Saint Louis and KWBP(TV) Portland.

When the show launches in '03, it will be with 125 episodes in the can, says Weiser. There is no cap on the first cycle, so that, for every additional year that it gets renewed on the network, the length of term of the off-network package gets extended by a number of months.

That's fairly typical, although Paramount bucked the trend recently with Becker, which has a four-year cap on the first cycle in off-network.

Stations like the idea of a cap because they know well in advance how long they are committed to the show.

But Columbia's position is that, with a minimum of 125 episodes (and probably more), the show will remain fresher longer even if stations double-run it. "Most shows try to get to 100 episodes at launch," says Weiser, noting that no show in recent history has launched with 125 episodes. "It's unparalleled."

Columbia is also reserving the right to drop in a cable window in the fourth year of the show's syndication run, also fairly typical.

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