Cleveland's WJW cashes out for 'Carey' rights

Warner Bros. has secured “Seinfeld”-level coin for off-network syndication rights to “The Drew Carey Show” in the star’s hometown of Cleveland, also the setting of the hit ABC sitcom.

Sources say Fox-owned WJW Cleveland ponied up a cash license fee of about $40,000 per week (or about $6.6 million over the course of the initial 3-1/2-year license period), for off-net rights to “Drew Carey” beginning in fall 1999. That’s understood to be close to the price CBS affil WOIO pays for the off-net rights to “Seinfeld” in Cleveland, the nation’s 13th-largest TV market.

With the sale earlier this week to Fox-owned WJW Cleveland, “Drew Carey” has now been cleared in more than 60% of U.S. TV households and 18 of the top 20 markets for a fall 1999 debut in syndication. The show, chronicling the misadventures of an upwardly mobile department store personnel manager and his quick-witted friends, is heading into its third season on ABC this fall.

“Stations are embracing ‘The Drew Carey Show’ aggressively,” said Scott Carlin, executive VP of Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution. WBDTD and WJW execs declined to specify the financial terms of their agreement.

Not surprisingly, the hometown hero factor has made “Drew Carey” a monster hit in primetime for Cleveland’s ABC affil WEWS. In the May sweep, “Drew Carey” averaged a 21.7 household rating and 32 share on WEWS, more than double the rating and share of its nearest Wednesday-night competitor.

As a result, WB had multiple offers from Cleveland broadcast outlets for “Drew Carey,” but it came as no surprise that the show went to the Fox O&O. The station group has set its sights on pairing reruns of WB’s “Drew Carey” with 1999’s other hot off-net prospect, the Carsey-Werner Co.’s “3rd Rock From the Sun,” as an access block to drive young adult viewers into the network’s primetime lineup.

Fox O&Os snaring “Drew Carey” during WB’s sales blitz over the past eight weeks include WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles, WFTX Boston, WTTG Washington, D.C., and WAGA Atlanta.

In other syndication news Tuesday, Columbia TriStar unveiled new station deals for its upcoming talk-variety strip with Donny and Marie Osmond.

Following an initial deal with five major-market Fox O&Os, “Donny & Marie” has been picked up for a 1998 launch by NBC affil KACE Minneapolis and ABC affils KGTV San Diego and KMBC Kansas City, among others. To date, “Donny & Marie” is cleared for takeoff in about 30% of the country.

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