TBS Gets Earl


On the heels of NBC Universal’s announcement about the sale of The Office in syndication, Twentieth Television Thursday confirmed that it has reached an off-network deal for My Name is Earl with TBS.

The cable network, which will get a simultaneous launch with stations in fall 2009, is thought to have bid more than $600,000 per episode after Twentieth received multiple cable bids. Twentieth declined to comment on price.

Unlike NBCU, which made a deal with the Fox duopoly stations, Twentieth will wait until the fall, after Tribune enters the bidding market, to roll out Earl to broadcast stations , according to Twentieth President Bob Cook.

But Cook acknowledges that Twentieth’s sister Fox stations have made a preemptive offer “that we would entertain.” 

With two syndicators announcing off-net sitcom sales to Turner on the same day, cable has turned into a major component of the off-net comedy sales market. 

“The reason we went with cable first is that we had multiple bidders,” Cook says. “We hadn’t gone with broadcast since Tribune told us that they wouldn’t be paying for product until fall.”

Comedy Central was also believed to be in the running for both shows and while it could have matched the price, it could not deliver the ratings of a TBS.

Syndicators cume ratings between broadcast and cable. The higher Turner numbers raise the value of the broadcast time. The three, 30-second, national commercial spots can double the value of station license fees, especially in a healthy upfront market like this year's.

Also included in the TBS deal for Earl are digital rights for broadband streaming and on-demand.

TBS was known to be interested in pairing The Office with Earl, just as NBC has done.