Military skein pacts with Eye for two more years

The Paramount Network Television military drama “JAG” has re-enlisted for two years at CBS.

Sources believe CBS will pay a per-episode fee in the high $1 million range for the drama, which heads into its sixth season next fall. The Eye previously shelled out $1.2 million-$1.3 million a seg for “JAG.”

Despite their common Viacom pedigree, the “JAG” renewal wasn’t a slam dunk for either CBS or Paramount (Daily Variety, April 30). Par asked for a fee in the mid- to upper-$2 million range, while CBS offered about $1 million less than that.

The sticking point: “JAG” wasn’t your typical case of corporate synergy. CBS originally picked up “JAG” after NBC canceled the skein in 1996, long before the Eye was acquired by Viacom.

That means CBS originally picked up “JAG” in a traditional 4-1/2-year license arrangement. With “JAG” pulling decent numbers on Tuesday night for the Eye, and lower-rated series such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fetching impressive coin, Par was well aware that “JAG’s” profit holders expected the studio to locate the best deal possible regardless of family ties.

After all, Par execs were anxious to avoid a repeat of what happened between Disney and Wind Dancer Prods. over “Home Improvement.” Wind Dancer sued Disney/ABC on the grounds that Disney didn’t actively shop around the Tim Allen sitcom, which it produced, to get the best deal possible. The two sides settled out of court.

CBS’ exclusive negotiating period over “JAG” expired last week. Although tensions had escalated, the two sides kept talking, and Paramount didn’t take bids on the show from rival webs.

“JAG” is the latest series renewal for Par, which earlier this year sealed a new three-year pact with NBC for “Frasier.” Season to date, “JAG” averages 13.1 million viewers and a 9.2 household rating/14 share.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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