U renews syndie pair

Top-rated 'Hercules,' 'Xena' set through 2000

Universal TV has renewed its syndie titans “Hercules” and “Xena” through the 1999-2000 season with Tribune Broadcasting outlets and other stations covering 70% of U.S. TV households.

U’s intrepid pair surpassed Paramount’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” as the top-rated weekly dramas in syndication last season, marking the first time in a decade a “Star Trek” series hasn’t topped the weekly drama rankings. “Xena: Warrior Princess” averaged a 6.2 household rating in its second season; “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” which bowed in January 1995, has averaged a 5.9.

The two shows air back-to-back in most markets. They’ve been particularly strong in primetime for many UPN and WB network affils, especially the Tribune station group.

“The Tribune stations were the catalyst for the early renewals,” said Steve Rosenberg, head of sales for Universal TV Enterprises. On Wednesday, Tribune flagship WPIX New York reversed previously announced plans to move the block to Thursdays in October, opting to stick with Saturdays from 8-10 p.m., where they often rank No. 1 or No. 2 in key demographic categories.

“Hercules” and “Xena” also have become important franchises for Universal, which has already inked long-term deals with series stars Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless. In addition to direct-to-video titles and the recent debut of a “Herc” and “Xena” attraction at Universal Studios Florida, another spinoff, “Young Hercules,” is in the works for next year.

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