DreamWorks’ ‘Spin’ goes off-net for Par

Syndie deal could bring in $250 mil, show to bow in 2000

For DreamWorks Television, the pot of syndie gold at the end of the primetime rainbow is finally in sight.

DreamWorks has inked a deal with Paramount Domestic TV to handle off-network sales of its ABC sitcom “Spin City,” the first DreamWorks TV production to go the distance into Monday-to-Friday syndication.

Syndie revenue from the Michael J. Fox starrer could easily top $250 million over the course of its first five-year license term on local TV stations. “Spin City,” now wrapping its second season on ABC, is set to make its off-net bow in fall 2000.

DreamWorks’ distribution pact with Par came as a surprise to syndie biz observers. Buena Vista TV had been considered the frontrunner as a result of DreamWorks’ overall co-production pact with ABC.

Also, there had been a perception in the industry of bitterness between the syndie wings of Par and DreamWorks after DreamWorks signed Par talkshow host Maury Povich in 1996 to host a syndie newsmag with his wife, newswoman Connie Chung. That show never got off the ground and Par wound up losing one of its top syndie franchises when Povich struck a new deal with Universal that’s set to kick in this fall.

The pact between DreamWorks and Par on “Spin City” came together over the weekend and was unveiled Monday by Par Domestic TV co-presidents Joel Berman and Frank Kelly, and Bob Jacquemin, DreamWorks’ head of non-network TV.

DreamWorks had been shopping for a distribution partner on the show since last fall, although several potential partners balked at DreamWorks’ steep initial asking price of a guaranteed $3 million per seg in exchange for all broadcast and cable TV rights. Since then, DreamWorks has modified its business plan for “Spin City.” Par is handling the show for a straight distribution fee.

Jacquemin, formerly a top syndie sales exec with Par and Buena Vista TV, said he cut the deal with Par in part because the timing was such that the studio would be able to focus most of its sales resources on “Spin City.” Par’s next two off-net properties are the ABC sitcom “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and the UPN sitcom “Clueless.”

“Spin City” is projected to have a bright future in syndication, in part because the show draws a sizable aud among young men. On ABC, the comedy has proved resilient this season in the tough 8 p.m. lead-off timeslot against formidable competition on Wednesdays, when all six webs vie for a slice of the primetime audience.

For DreamWorks, the official launch of the sales blitz for “Spin City” comes at a heady time for the four-year-old operation in both film and TV, Jacquemin said.

“This is really the first year that we are beginning to come out with a steady stream of product,” Jacquemin said. “The media has taken the approach (toward DreamWorks) of ‘What the hell is taking you guys so long?’ But this is the first year that we’ve had a real stream of revenue coming in. Clearly, (syndie sales of) ‘Spin City’ is going to have a positive impact on our operation.”

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