In a reversal of the typical syndication model, Sony Pictures Television's Ripley's Believe It or Not will launch off cable into broadcast syndication this fall, with 87% of the country already cleared on some Viacom, Fox, Belo, Hearst and Media General stations, among others.
Sony is offering stations more than 150 episodes off the bat, something that is unprecedented in syndication, says Sony Executive Vice President John Weiser. Studios usually have 100 episodes in hand when they go to sell shows to stations. Sony will have 22 more episodes available after Ripley's
cable home, TBS Superstation, receives the remaining 11 episodes of the show's full season. To create 150 episodes, Sony is taking the show's existing 75 hours and cutting them in half, with host Dean Cain providing new introductions and conclusions to each episode.
"It's always been a show that's been very interesting for syndication because it's highly compatible with sitcoms," Weiser says. "It's a show that has led out of Friends, Roseanne and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
and increased the lead-in on every single one of them."
On TBS, Ripley's
airs at 9 p.m., after the cable channel's non-stop comedy block, which starts at 4:30 p.m. ET. Sony expects that the same formula will work for broadcast stations, many of which air comedy blocks in access.
began its life on the air Jan. 12, 2000, when TBS picked up the original show. It then had a brief and concurrent run on The WB, airing on Sundays at 7 p.m. from October 2001 to December 2001. The show has had a longer run on TBS, where it is the No. 1 original show in households and in the key adult male demographics.
Weiser says Ripley's commands the most for a 30-second spot: $5,800. That compares with Friends' $3,900, according to Ad*view's most recent measurement. The show attracts such advertisers as movie studios, fast-food chains, automotive companies and soft-drink producers.