TBS' rerun rights check in at $1 mil per seg

Last week’s auction of the rerun rights to “Seinfeld” among cablers might as well have been held at Sotheby’s or Christie’s.

With at least four major bidders in the mix, the final pricetag for “Seinfeld” was driven up to more than $1 million per episode in cash license fees alone — upending even the most bullish predictions that the show would sell for about $500,000-$600,000 per seg. (Daily Variety, Sept. 3).

TBS made the winning offer in a bidding frenzy orchestrated by “Seinfeld” distrib Columbia TriStar TV Distribution late last week that primarily revolved around the Turner cabler, USA Network, FX and Comedy Central. Reps for TBS declined to comment on financial terms of the deal.

Big payday

With 180 “Seinfeld” segs in the can, TBS has agreed to pay roughly $180 million over a four-year license term for “Seinfeld” beginning in fall 2002. Barter advertising time included in the deal should add at least another $600,000 to the haul for the Castle Rock TV-produced sitcom.

Now that the cable TV rights have been sold, numbers-crunchers are predicting that “Seinfeld” will generate a record-shattering $2 billion in revenue in its first 10 years in syndication.

“Seinfeld” was an instant hit when it bowed in Monday-Friday broadcast syndication in fall 1995. Earlier this year, Col TriStar raked in record coin by wrapping up early renewals with stations stretching through 2006, and then moved on to tackle the sale of the cable TV rerun rights.

‘Seinfeld’ on overdrive

The final sale price to TBS is particularly impressive because the cabler will not have it exclusively as more than 200 TV stations nationwide will also be serving up daily doses of “Seinfeld” even after TBS’ deal kicks in.

For TBS, buying “Seinfeld,” even for top dollar, was a business decision that TBS execs expect will pay off in many ways. In 2002, “Seinfeld” will join a TBS primetime sitcom block that will include reruns of “Home Improvement,” “Friends” and “The Drew Carey Show.”

“Acquiring blockbuster programming is the foundation of Turner Broadcasting’s successful and ongoing pursuit of parity with the broadcast networks,” said TBS prexy Bill Burke.

” ‘Seinfeld’ and our other major contemporary programming acquisitions will continue to push viewers from the broadcast networks to cable while providing solid opportunities for our cable affiliates and to generate incremental local advertising revenue.”

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