Buena Vista finds syndie ‘After’ life

Re-runs of WB Net sitcom clear 50% of the country

NEW YORK — Walt Disney’s Buena Vista TV has quietly cleared TV stations in 50% of the country for the syndicated re-runs of “Unhappily Ever After,” the WB Network sitcom from the creators of “Married With Children.”

Seven of the Fox-owned TV stations, including WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles and WFLD Chicago, have agreed to take “Unhappily,” which becomes available in the fall of 1999. No cash changes hands in the deals; instead, Buena Vista collects its revenues by holding back three-and-a-half barter minutes within each run for sale to national advertisers. The stations get the other three-and-a-half for local sale.

Janice Marinelli, executive VP of sales for Buena Vista TV, said she had not thought of releasing the series earlier, such as January 1999, to Fox stations looking to plug the late-night holes that cropped up when Twentieth TV canceled “The Magic Show,” the talk-variety hour hosted by Magic Johnson (Daily Variety, Aug. 7).

“We would have missed the whole upfront selling season,” Marinelli said, by offering “Unhappily” in January. Buena Vista would have had to sell the barter spots at low scatter-market prices for the first nine months of the show’s syndication life if the distributor had bowed to the immediate needs of Fox stations, she said.

Marinelli said most station buyers are planning to strip “Unhappily” in late-night time periods, although there’ll be a scattering of afternoon and early-evening slots. Buena Vista hopes to swell its advertising revenues by encouraging TV stations to double-strip “Unhappily.” The distributor will deliver 100 half-hours to stations in the fall of 1999.

“Unhappily” was one of the charter shows on The WB when the weblet opened for business in January 1995. The executive producers are Ron Leavitt, Arthur Silver and Marcy Vosburgh. Leavitt and Silver also created and produced “Married With Children.”

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