Paramount Domestic Television is seeking a minimum of $100,000 per week in New York, the nation’s largest market, for “Frasier,” its long-anticipated fall 1997 off-net sitcom, sources said.
The syndicator began informing Gotham stations of its “Seinfeld”-level minimum asking price for “Frasier” on Sept. 13, with bids due early this week.
It’s believed that Par will seek around $110,000 per week in Los Angeles.
Sitcoms are generally sold in the second-ranked market, where there are seven VHF stations, for a little more than in New York, which has six. But L.A.’s stand-alone Disney indie KCAL has not been a bidder for high-priced off-net comedies for several years.
The New York price for the Emmy-winning “Frasier” would translate to about $180,000-$190,000 per episode, depending on the number of episodes produced. That would put it in a stratosphere of sitcoms that includes all-time champ “The Cosby Show,” as well as “Home Improvement” and “The Simpsons,” all of which garnered $200,000-plus per episode in the top two markets.
Par is pitching “Frasier” for a 169-week license term, with each season beyond its fourth in 1997 adding 39 weeks to the life of the deal. There is no cap on the number of seasons it will run. Par also is said to be seeking a minute of national barter advertising time.
Meanwhile, Carsey-Werner confirmed Sept. 14 that it has licensed its fall ’97 entry “Grace Under Fire” on Fox-owned WNYW New York and indie WPWR Chicago.
The syndicator is believed to have sought a minimum of $75,000 per week in New York and L.A. and $35,000 in Chicago.
C-W Distribution president Joe Zaleski said the cash license fees for “Grace” are “tracking at a level substantially higher” than “Roseanne,” which garnered about $1.5 million per episode.
However, industry sources dispute that contention, saying “Grace” is tracking at about $700,000-$850,000 per episode. They estimate the sitcom fetched perhaps $45,000-$50,000 per week in New York and $35,000 in Chicago.
Both WNYW and Fox’s KTTV in L.A. initially bid $30,000 per week for “Grace,” sources noted.
WNYW, which was in more need of sitcoms than other Fox markets, supposedly upped the bid when C-W agreed to a broadcast exclusivity provision, effectively knocking Turner’s Atlanta cable superstation WTBS out of the mix.
C-W is believed to have passed on both KTTV’s initial $30,000-per-week bid as well as a combined $100,000-per-week deal for New York and L.A. from Chris-Craft.
To ensure that it gets its asking price, market sources said Paramount will only return calls to stations that ante up at least its required minimum bid. The critically acclaimed series is expected to attract strong interest.
Asked about the discrepancy in prices for “Frasier” and “Grace” – both considered strong series in their network runs – a station source said, “It’s all a matter of perception.”