NBC Universal has pocketed a record $1.92 million an episode from its sale of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” in a shared window to the USA Network and its sister channel Bravo.
That edges out the $1.9 million Spike will pony up for exclusive cable TV rights to “CSI:NY” in a deal that’s still in its final stages.
Last month, for “Cold Case,” TNT shelled out $1.4 million an episode –the highest price TNT has ever paid for a rerun hour.
The three deals represent media synergy at its most visible. NBC U is a sister company of USA, King World (“CSI:NY”) is a sibling of Spike, and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable (“Cold Case”) is, like TNT, a division of Time Warner.
But what’s unusual about the “Intent” deal is that Bravo — which will play the reruns on the weekend while USA strips them during the week — has in effect bought out the syndication window. Both USA and Bravo start playing the off-net “Intent” in September.
Deal encompasses a four-year license term for the 89 “Intent” episodes produced through the 2004-05 season. NBC U will tack an extra year onto the USA/Bravo contract for each additional season of 22 hours commissioned by NBC.
Since USA is paying the bulk of the license fee, the network will also be able to play “Intent” on the weekends, with one restriction: The USA episode won’t be able to play in the same time period as the Bravo run.
And USA’s payment also includes the right to repeat the brand-new episode of “Intent” within eight days of its NBC primetime run. Fees for these “repurposings” of the new hours can cost about $150,000 an episode, a stipend that, in the case of “Intent,” is built into the overall $1.92 million an episode tariff.
The inclusion of Bravo in the deal drew the most comment within the industry. Adding Bravo goes against the grain of the usual contract for a high-visibility off-network hour, which specifies that one cable net buys the Monday/Friday schedule, leaving the distributor to sell the weekend plays simultaneously to TV stations in rerun syndication.
Those syndication deals can add $200,000-$300,000 or more per episode to the series, depending on the health of the advertising marketplace and the number of years the show continues in weekend syndication.
The fat license fee for “Intent” comes despite the ratings decline of the series this year on NBC’s Sunday-night schedule, where the show has lost viewers to ABC’s runaway hit “Desperate Housewives.”
There was no doubt within the industry that USA would end up with the “Intent” reruns for two big reasons: USA currently plays the new episodes a week after they appear on NBC, so “Intent” reruns are already associated with USA; and USA strips “Law & Order: SVU,” which the network pre-bought two years ago for $1.4 million an episode.