Cabler FX takes a big ‘Mac’ tack

Twentieth TV's 'Bernie' bolsters cabler's laff line

NEW YORK — Continuing to stockpile rerun sitcoms to bolster its Nielsen ratings, FX has bought exclusive cable rights to Twentieth TV’s “The Bernie Mac Show” for a four-year license term.

The parties declined to comment on dollar figures, but a sluggish marketplace for off-network shows allowed FX to get “Bernie Mac” for the modest price of $235,000 a half-hour.

In previous years, FX paid $600,000 an episode for Twentieth’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” $490,000 a half-hour for Carsey-Werner Distribution’s “That ’70s Show” and $400,000 an episode for Twentieth’s “King of the Hill.”

A big plus

With “Bernie Mac,” however, Twentieth could end up collecting another $200,000 an episode or more from the 90 seconds of advertising time it will hold back within each half-hour run of the show on FX. These barter carve-outs have become par for the course in off-net syndication.

FX gets “Bernie Mac” in the fall of 2008 after the show completes a three-year exclusive run on TV stations in off-network syndication. Twentieth’s syndication sales staff has already cleared “Bernie Mac” in 75% of the U.S.

If the Fox Network cancels “Bernie Mac” before it reaches its fourth year, FX will pay less than $235,000 a half hour because fewer episodes will make the show less valuable in cable reruns.

Contract has cap

For each additional year that Fox renews “Bernie Mac” beyond year four, Twentieth tacks an extra six months onto FX’s four-year contract. But there’s a cap: FX will not have to buy any additional episodes beyond seven years should the show continue to get picked up by Fox.

Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth TV, engineered the deal. “Bernie Mac” is co-produced by Regency TV and Fox TV Studios.

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