Family dials ‘911’ as CBS eyes off-net sale

CBS Enterprises is expected to announce this week that it has sold off-net episodes of the reality series “Rescue 911” to cable’s Family Channel in a deal estimated to be worth $ 15 million.

In addition to its cable run, the series will likely be targeted for a syndication launch in fall 1993 with MTM Entertainment serving as the distributor, according to industry sources.

The parent company of the Family Channel, Intl. Family Entertainment, struck a deal in September to buy MTM-parent TVS Entertainment PLC for $ 68.5 million. The agreement is expected to be completed in early January.

None of the CBS Enterprises,IFE and MTM principals involved in the “911” transaction could be reached for comment on Friday. The syndie consultant hired by CBS to arrange for distribution of the series was also unavailable.

But sources familiar with the deal said the Family Channel may seek to work out some sort of joint sharing arrangement with stations, with the basic cabler either running “911” simultaneously as a strip (in which case broadcasters would be limited to scheduling it in specific dayparts) or on weekends.

It is not known if MTM has yet begun to formulate a marketing plan for the series, which is produced by Arnold Shapiro in association with CBS Entertainment Prods. The reality series will have racked up more than 100 episodes by next January.

The industry has been following the “911” distribution deal with some interest because it will be among the first off-net series to enter the marketplace under new Federal Communications Commission rules that permit a network to participate in syndication revenues (Daily Variety, Aug. 4).

By going directly to cable, however, the deal appears to be an outright sale.

If the $ 15 million pricetag stands up, “911” would have far exceeded the reported $ 10 million generated by “Unsolved Mysteries” when Buena Vista Television sold the off-net episodes to Lifetime cable.

Another factor in the higher pricetag may be IFE’s ability to recoup some or all of its investment through syndication via the MTM subsid.

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