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‘Sabrina,’ ‘Clueless’ set for syndie run on WB affils

Buyers question pairing

“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” has cast its spell over Tribune-owned stations in Gotham, Los Angeles and Chicago. The WB affils have picked up the syndie rerun rights to the ABC comedy from Paramount Domestic TV beginning in fall 2000.

The first syndie deals for “Sabrina” include a two-year, all barter component for the Par-produced UPN comedy “Clueless,” also for 2000. “Clueless,” based on the 1995 Amy Heckerling pic, also will be carried nationally on Tribune’s WGN Chicago superstation channel, which reaches about 40 million domestic cable and satellite households. “Sabrina” will be exclusive to broadcast TV in its initial syndie run.

Par is offering “Sabrina” on a standard cash-plus-barter basis for a minimum 3-1/2-year license term, with built-in 39-week extensions for each year of its network run beyond the 1999-2000 season. The Melissa Joan Hart starrer, loosely based on the Archie Comics character, is now in its third season on the Alphabet web’s Friday lineup.

The sitcom from Par sibling Viacom Prods. is expected to be a solid performer in Monday-Friday syndication, thanks to its kid and teen appeal, notably the talking feline charm of Sabrina’s pet Salem, a mischievous warlock doing penance as a black cat.

Major station group buyers were less enthusiastic about “Clueless,” leading some biz watchers to question whether tagging “Clueless” along with “Sabrina” was a wise move on Par’s part. But John Nogawski, Par’s exec VP and general sales manager, said the plan all along has been to market the shows as a pair in syndication as much as possible.

“We think they are so similar demographically that they will both be more successful working in tandem,” said Nogawski.

Nogawski noted that the sitcoms aired back-to-back in their first season on ABC, after which “Clueless” was dropped by the Alphabet and picked up by Viacom’s co-owned UPN weblet.

Sources estimate that in Gotham and L.A., the two richest TV markets, “Sabrina’s” cash license fee was in the mid-five-figure range — not a stratospheric pricetag, but in line with recent deals for family-oriented sitcoms of its ilk.

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