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WB sitcoms sold to Trib

Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution has sold off-network rights to its WB netlet sitcoms “The Wayans Bros.” and “The Parent ‘Hood” to Tribune Broadcasting Co., which is part owner of the WB network.

The one-hour off-net block was sold for cash plus barter and will debut in fall 1999. These are the first sitcoms sold in syndication for 1999, and the deal runs 3-1/2 years, with WBDTD keeping six minutes barter a week on each sitcom for the first two years.

Cash terms were not disclosed, but rep sources say the total cash probably won’t be as high as that brought in by Paramount Domestic TV for “Sister, Sister,” which sources estimate is in the range of $600,000 per episode. Rep sources estimate “The Wayans Bros.” and “The Parent ‘Hood” will probably generate between $500,000 and $600,000 an episode.

The deal is also the first in which the producer, network and off-net launch group are all partners. While the two sitcoms are low-rated nationally, as are all shows on the emerging netlet, ethnic sitcoms tend to perform well in large, urban markets, especially in syndication.

Tribune and Warner Bros. are partners in the WB netlet, which probably helped the sale happen, despite the fact that “Wayans” is averaging a 3.3/5 this season and “Parent ‘Hood” a 2.6/4. The shows are also good transition vehicles between kids and adult fare on the stations.

“The numbers don’t sell these shows,” said Bill Carroll, VP-director of programming at rep firm Katz Television, which counsels stations on programming decisions. “Sister, Sister,” the first sitcom sold off WB, had an easier time because it first aired on ABC, Carroll said, adding that a new ratings benchmark for success in syndication may have to be established for emerging networks.

A Warner Bros. source said the sale could send the message to producers that selling a show to the WB does not kill the show’s chances in the after-markets.

Stations airing the shows include: WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles, WGN Chicago, WPHL Philadelphia, WLVI Boston, WGNX Atlanta, KHTV Houston, KWGN Denver, KSWB San Diego and WGNO New Orleans. WBDC Washington, D.C., which Tribune manages, and Qwest stations WATL Atlanta and WNOL New Orleans, which Tribune partly owns, may also air the sitcom pair.

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