Inside Move: Syndie’s ‘Middle’ ground

Col's 'Queens' renews its courtship

Columbia TriStar TV Distribution is preparing a renewed push to sell reruns of its “King of Queens” sitcom to station buyers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The fresh spur to Columbia’s gung-ho sales force is the July 24 deal by the Fox-owned TV stations in the three cities to lay out tens of millions of dollars for reruns of another highly touted sitcom, “Malcolm in the Middle,” distributed by Fox’s sister company Twentieth TV. Seven other Fox O&Os in major markets also bought “Malcolm” on the same day.

The Fox stations in N.Y., L.A. and Chicago had held off making a bid for “Queens” until they completed their deals for “Malcolm.”

The other major player for “Queens” reruns, Tribune Broadcasting’s powerful threesome — WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago — urged Col to change the availability date of the series from fall 2003 to fall 2004 because the Tribune stations ostensibly won’t need a new sitcom until then.

Tribune gets reruns of Warner Bros./NBC’s “Will & Grace” and Twentieth TV’s “Dharma & Greg” this fall. And its stations still are doing well with reruns of “Friends” and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” both of which look like they may have continued staying power.

But Col’s business plan called for selling “Queens” reruns in fall 2003. Consequently, for the past few months, Columbia has defied convention by skipping N.Y., L.A. and Chi for the time being and selling “Queens” for substantial dollars to TV stations in approximately 60% of the U.S.

Columbia is betting the Tribune stations will be a lot more interested in “Queens” now that their chief rival Fox has snared “Malcolm.”

And Fox could still use “Queens” because it owns second stations in N.Y., L.A. and Chicago that it has to keep stocked with programming.

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