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‘Hill’ fits bill for fall 2001 syndie mill

Fox show on fast track to top dollar

No doubt, Hank Hill would chalk up his family’s success in the syndie marketplace to its unwavering faith in God, Country and Football.

The rerun rights to Fox’s hit animated sitcom “King of the Hill” have been sold for a fall 2001 debut to stations covering nearly 90% of U.S. TV households. Twentieth TV, Fox’s syndie arm, has raked in megacoin in many markets for the cash-plus-barter offering.

At that rate, syndie biz observers say the show could reach the lofty heights of “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and “Home Improvement” by pulling in $2.5 million to $3 million per episode in cash license fees alone in its first four-year syndie license term.

Some dissenting opinions pegged “King’s” cash haul in the $2.2 million to $2.5 million per-seg range, but either way, the show is poised to become a huge contributor to News Corp.’s bottom line over the next decade. With a minimum of 100 segs to be produced, “King” could generate $400 million in its first syndie cycle when barter advertising sales are factored in.

And all that coin will, for the most part, stay in the Fox family. In addition to being a crucial component of Fox’s primetime lineup, “King of the Hill” is produced by 20th Century Fox TV. The Fox O&O group, naturally, was first in line for the rerun rights to the hip comedy about an all-American Texas clan.

“Stations clearly see that ‘King of the Hill’ is the one show out there that has true hit potential,” said Twentieth prexy Rick Jacobson. “There’s a lot of flexibility with a program like this. The animation brings the kids in and the more sophisticated humor grabs adults.”

“King of the Hill” has been particularly sought after by stations because the show has a track record of attracting a sizable male audience — an attribute that’s increasingly absent from many primetime skeins.

Moreover, at present “King” looks to be one of the few certifiable primetime hits to come down the syndie pipeline in the next few years.

Finally, “King of the Hill’s” fortunes were boosted by the better-than-expected syndie performance of Fox’s first animated hit, “The Simpsons,” which bowed in Monday-to-Friday reruns in fall 1994. “The Simpsons” has been a consistent, broad-based draw for stations ever since — so much so that Fox’s struggling Gotham O&O runs it three times a day.

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