The Tribune, Paramount and Arby Communications station groups have grabbed Warner Bros.’ new off-net sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for many of their stations, but at license fees far below the distrib’s asking price.“Prince,” which is produced by the Stuffed Dog Co. and Quincy Jones Entertainment in association with NBC Prods., is among the first off-net programs to come onto the market following revisions in the financial interest and syndication (or fin-syn) rules. Networks involved in the production of shows are now permitted to share in the syndication revenues. WB sold “Prince”–which becomes available for syndication in 1994 on a cash-plus-barter basis, for an estimated combined price of about $ 140,000 per episode–to the Tribune stations in Los Angeles (KTLA), New York (WPIX-TV), Philadelphia (WPHL) and New Orleans (WGNO). The syndicator had been seeking $ 115,000 per episode in L.A. alone (Daily Variety, Oct. 23). WB Domestic TV Distribution prez Dick Robertson declined Friday to discuss price, but noted that “we wound up far ahead of our projections” in the first series of deals. As with any business, he said, the revenue projections are virtually always lower than the asking price. Trib’s Chicago flagship superstation, WGN-TV, reportedly wasn’t interested in the program, which WB is selling on a market-by-market basis. Because “Prince” has syndicated exclusivity, which provides for cable companies to black out superstations carrying the show, it is uncertain if WB would consider WGN. In one ironic twist on the deal, Robertson noted that WGNO outbid WNOL-TV for the show in New Orleans. WNOL is owned by Quincy Jones Broadcasting. The series also went to the Paramount stations in Dallas (KTXA), Houston (KTXH) and San Antonio (KRRT). Sources said WB came close to reaching a deal with the Fox O&Os in Dallas and Houston, but the syndicator opted to take the show elsewhere in those markets after Fox made a number of demands on critical deal points. WB has also licensed the show to the Arby stations in Baltimore ((WNUV) and Birmingham, Ala. (WTTO). With the deals, Robertson said that WB has reached about 25-30% of its projected revenue for “Prince.” He emphasized the distrib may strike more deals with Trib and Par stations when more markets are opened. On top of the cash, WB has carved out a minute of barter time for the 5-8 p.m. early fringe series in the first two years of the 3 1/2-year deal. Stations also have the option to double run the series. Station exex said they believe “Prince” will perform decently for two seasons , then fade in the third. The syndie deal will be extended six months for every additional network season beyond the initial 116 episodes. That provision has led some broadcasters to express concern that profit-sharing partner NBC may be inclined to extend the run of the show on the network, even if it is performing marginally, in order to lengthen the series syndie life. An NBC spokeswoman denied the claim, saying the life of “any show depends on ratings. The network would never keep a program on the air for any other reason.”
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