Sony mulling future of remaining TV ops

Co. does anticipate buyers for 'Queens,' 'Family Law'

HOLLYWOOD — Insiders speculated Thursday about how Sony’s remaining TV operation will be able to cope long-term with a narrowed pipeline of network properties resulting from the shuttering of the company’s network production division.

The sale of off-network series into syndication is considered syndie companies’ bread-and-butter biz — and Sony’s syndie and cable division has been known for its successes in the arena, with innovative and lucrative sales of such off-net sitcoms as “Seinfeld” and “Married… With Children.” “Seinfeld,” for example, has reaped $2 billion in revenue in its first two syndication cycles.

Off-net revenue can be used to fuel development of firstrun projects, which also can be lucrative but are up against tougher odds. TV stations across the country cough up large license fees for hit off-net laffers, using them to attract coveted young viewers, who know and love the shows, during access time periods (6-8 p.m.).

Home runs rare

While a firstrun hit in syndication can be one of the most lucrative endeavors in the entertainment business, home runs have become increasingly rare. The June 1996 launch of “Rosie O’Donnell” was the last time a syndie strip became a hit out of the box.

Sony does have buyers anticipating the near-future sale of at least one high-profile laffer, “King of Queens.” Drama “Family Law” also is in the pipeline.

And Sony said its reorganized TV operation, headed by Steve Mosko, who has been prexy of what’s now Sony’s former syndie and cable division Columbia TriStar TV Distribution (CTTD), will pursue selected network programming opportunities.

How many new network shows ultimately will come out of Sony remains to be seen. But with the shuttering of the operation devoted to producing such properties, the number will certainly decrease.

In July 2000, Mosko rose from head of sales to become the second prexy of CTTD, which came together in the late 1980s. He succeeded Barry Thurston.

While for years some of the company’s biggest accomplishments came in the form of off-net sales and firstrun hits like talker “Ricki Lake” and weekly action hour “V.I.P.,” it recently has seen an uptick in its business of producing originals for cable.

This fall, the company will have more than a dozen original series on the air, half of which are syndicated programs, the other half originals for cable, including TBS’ “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” which now also airs on the WB.

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