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‘NewsRadio’ goes syndie

Col Tristar to offer B-G sitcom for two-year, all-barter deal

“NewsRadio” is poised to take the “Designing Women” route to its syndication afterlife this fall.

Columbia TriStar TV Distribution is said to be finalizing plans to offer reruns of Brillstein-Grey’s NBC sitcom “NewsRadio” to TV stations for a two-year, all-barter deal, similar to the package the distrib put together for the 1992 syndie bow of its CBS sitcom “Designing Women.” Brillstein-Grey signed an off-network distribution pact with CTTD several years ago, before Universal acquired a sizable stake in B-G.

Reps for CTTD declined to comment, but the two-year, all-barter sales plan would be a departure from the long-term, cash-plus-barter deals CTTD has inked on its recent off-net properties, including “The Nanny,” “Mad About You” and “Seinfeld.”

“NewsRadio’s” future in syndication had been murky even before the May 27 murder of cast member Phil Hartman. The show was on the verge of cancellation last month but won a fifth season pickup from NBC after Brillstein-Grey agreed to give the Peacock a stake in the syndication profits. Had “NewsRadio” been canceled, the series would not have amassed the 100-plus episodes necessary for a long life as a Monday-to-Friday strip, the most lucrative syndie option.

Even with NBC’s pickup, “NewsRadio” is still just one of a half-dozen sitcoms hitting the syndie marketplace over the next two years. While critically acclaimed, the comedy has never been a slam-dunk hit on NBC, leading to uncertainty among station buyers about its performance as a Monday-to-Friday property. “Designing Women” faced a similar dilemma in the early 1990s.

As a result, CTTD aims to make “NewsRadio” more attractive to prospective buyers by offering a two-year license term, far shorter than the standard commitment of five years or more. And instead of ponying up a weekly cash license fee for the show, stations will give up half of the advertising time in each telecast — 3-1/2 minutes — to Col TriStar, which in turn will sell those barter spots to national advertisers.

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