‘Seinfeld’ in bidding war

For a show about nothing, “Seinfeld” is sure worth a lot to stations.

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution this week takes the off-net sitcom from Gotham into Los Angeles, where a rare four-way bidding war may be heating up that will go a long way toward establishing a per-episode price for the coveted adult comedy.

Over the past few years, there have been only three serious contenders for sitcoms in L.A.: Tribune’s KTLA, Chris-Craft’s KCOP and Fox’s KTTV.

Disney’s stand-alone station KCAL has pretty much taken itself out of the bidding wars for off-net comedies. Because it can’t compete with group-owned stations that have more bargaining clout with syndicators, KCAL has lately focused on local development and firstrun reality series.

But the Mouse may want to reconsider in the aftermath of the February sweeps, when it again finished last in the critical revenue-producing 6-8 p.m. block.

“If I were there, I would be pushing for the show,” says the general manager of another station in the market who’s anxious to get “Seinfeld.”

Desire is one thing; money is another.

Col TriStar has positioned “Seinfeld” as the last big-ticket sitcom to come down the pike for several years. It believes it can get “Home Improvement”-type dollars — about $ 3 million per episode from all the markets (the Tim Allen-vehicle pocketed $ 225,000 in New York).

But L.A. is still struggling more than most to get out of the recession. Growth is sluggish. And station execs are extremely cautious.

“A lot of us paid a lot of money for things over the last five years and we were not always successful in recouping our investment,” says an L.A. market G.M.


Fox has called off its controversial $ 57 million deal to buy WGBS-TV, Philadelphia, from Combined Communications.

The FCC was slow to approve the deal in part because the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People filed a petition to deny Fox the license, claiming the company is in violation of FCC ownership rules prohibiting foreigners from owning more than a 25% stake in a TV station. The FCC never ruled on NAACP’s claims.

But there’s a possibility that Fox may again try to buy the station after Combined winds WGBS through the long, arduous FCC license renewal process.

Fox’s attempted purchase of WGBS-TV was messy from the start. Paramount Broadcasting, which owns current Philadelphia Fox affil WTXF-TV, was livid when Fox said it was buying the station.

Now it looks like Par may remain a Fox affil in Philly after all. That means Paramount will likely be knocking on WGBS’s door to see if the station would like to affiliate with the studio’s fifth network effort. If Par were to try to keep both Fox and its own “network” on the same station, that would be grounds for an affiliation removal.

Paramount TV Group topper Kerry McCluggage says he will “see what happens.”


If the price of tuition goes up at Boston University, don’t blame it on higher book costs. Chalk it up to “The Golden Girls.”

Come again? That’s right, BU is in the TV business. And not some low-powered public broadcasting outlet airing highbrow fare, but a true commercial station — WABU-TV — looking to compete with Tribune Broadcasting, Group W and the other big boys in Beantown.

The university bought the station, previously owned by the Christian Science Monitor, in July for $ 3.8 million. Since then, WABU has spent $ 2.5 million improving the equipment and buying programs, including the off-net sitcoms “The Golden Girls” and “WKRP in Cincinnati” as well as action hours such as “Magnum P.I.” What really put it on the map, however, was the agreement the station signed recently with the Eye web to carry “CBS This Morning” on Feb. 28, the day CBS affil WHDH dropped it for its own local news show.

“We’re committed to be a player in Boston,” says Bob Gordon, president and general manager of WABU.

Besides acquiring product and possibly affiliating with Paramount’s fifth network (they’ve had talks), Gordon wants the station to produce a great deal of local programming. And if things get tight? Hey, raise the tuition.

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