Columbia TriStar TV Distribution is seeking a minimum of $ 125,000 per week, or the hefty sum of roughly $ 200,000 per episode, for the highly hyped off-net sitcom “Seinfeld” in New York, according to market sources.
The three independent stations in the nation’s largest TV market — United/Chris-Craft’s WWOR, Fox’s WNYW and Tribune’s WPIX — will have until the close of business Wednesdayto submit their bids.
In addition to cash for “Seinfeld,” which becomes available in fall 1995, stations will have to surrender one minute of advertising time on weekdays. And on weekends, the syndicator is seeking another three minutes of national ad time during the first two years of the syndication deal.
At the prices Col/TriStar is seeking, stations would likely have to air it in the 7-8 p.m. access period for at least a portion of the license term to recoup their investment. One New York general manager said it was the highest price he’d seen for a show sold on a market-by-market basis.
There had been uncertainty about whether WNYW would be willing to bid for “Seinfeld.” The Fox station — as part of a group deal — already paid an estimated $ 225,000 per episode for Buena Vista TV’s “Home Improvement,” which is on track to take in $ 3 million per episode from all markets — and just under $ 200,000 per episode for Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons.”
Willing to bid
But market sources say WNYW is in the running for “Seinfeld.” If it is successful, however, Twentieth’s “A Current Affair” would likely move from its prime 7:30 p.m. perch into the 6-7 p.m. hour.
The question becomes whether the N.Y. bidding war will turn into a two- or three-way race. WWOR is said to be interested in “Seinfeld,” but WPIX will have to decide whether it wants to pay big bucks for the sitcom when it is doing fairly well with kids and teen fare from 6-8 p.m.
Advertisers likely would be willing to pay more for “Seinfeld,” which scores high with the coveted 18-49 audience, than for a high-rated kid or teen show.
Next up for the syndicator is the No. 2 TV market of Los Angeles, where stations began hearing “Seinfeld” pitches Monday. The L.A. stations should receive the minimum prices from the syndicator this week, with bids closing by the middle of next week.
Because there are four indies in L.A. and three in New York, sitcoms generally go for more in the West Coast market.
For instance, price estimates for “Home Improvement” in L.A. went as high as $ 260,000 per episode.
L.A. pays big $
Generally, L.A. indies have paid about 20% more for big-ticket sitcoms than New York stations. That resulted in record-shattering license fee deals in the late 1980s, when Col fetched more than $ 300,000 per episode for “Who’s the Boss?” from KCAL (then KHJ) and Viacom garnered about $ 275,000 per episode for “The Cosby Show” from KCOP. Both stations had trouble recouping investments from the high-price shows.
KCOP is considered a strong contender for “Seinfeld” in L.A., and KCAL general manager David Woodcock, whose stand-alone station has steered clear of sitcoms for the past few years, says his station may consider making a bid.
And if WNYW is in the running, sister station KTTV is also considered a likely bidder.
KTLA general manager Greg Nathanson sums up the race this way: “In ‘Seinfeld, ‘ they talk about a contest. But this is the real contest, where abstinence could be great for your profit line, but can you really abstain?”
Although Col/TriStar TV Distribution prez Barry Thurston has indicated a preference for market-by-market sale, he hasn’t ruled out a group deal. Sources said the syndicator has already met with Tribune Broadcasting, which also includes WGN-TV Chicago among its independent stations.
A Col/TriStar rep declined comment.