‘Commish’ will try off-net syndication

Cannell Distribution will jump on the anti-violence bandwagon at January’s National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab, rolling out off-net episodes of the hour police drama “The Commish” for fall 1995.

The series, from producer Stephen J. Cannell and ABC Prods., will be the first off-net hour licensed by the company on an all-barter basis because it is perceived as an “advertiser-friendly” show, Cannell Distribution prez Pat Kenney said. It consistently wins its 10 p.m. Saturday timeslot on the Alphabet web.

Cannell’s strategy with its hour dramas has been to break even or profit from foreign sales so that any domestic back-end revenues are gravy.

As for co-producer ABC Prods., the network subsid cannot start selling its own shows for two more years even with a relaxation of the financial interest and syndication rules.

Kenney says “The Commish” will be targeted as an alternative to talkshows for early fringe news lead-in slots and late fringe periods in the Midwest.

The rather tame police series fits in perfectly with President Clinton’s recent call for Hollywood to clean up its act. And stations have already made it clear to syndicators that they are seeking fare that won’t offend advertisers.

Kenney cites the success of MGM’s “In the Heat of the Night,” which he suspects will already have peaked by 1995 after three years in syndication, as a key reason the company has decided to pitch this latest hour to broadcast stations rather than to cable programmers. “The Commish,” which premiered in September 1991, will have built up 88 episodes when it enters the domestic syndication market.

Off-net dramas might also look more appealing to stations if a fifth, and possibly sixth, network come into being, said Kenney. The number of firstrun hours could decrease as the new weblets eat up more time periods over the next several years.

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