Reality skein nets $30 mil from F/X

HOLLYWOOD — In a four-year deal that could be worth up to $30 million, “Fear Factor” has become the first primetime network reality show to go into off-net syndication.

After intense interest from several cablers, FX has scooped up cable rights to the Endemol USA-produced skein, which is set to launch on both syndie and cable tiers at the same time. There’s usually a gap of a year or more between the syndie and cable windows.

NBC Enterprises has licensed the first three seasons of the grossout skein to FX, which has the option to pick up subsequent seasons. License fee is estimated to be between $250,000 and $300,000 per episode, with about 100 episodes expected to be available when the show hits FX this summer.

In addition, NBCE is in serious talks with the Tribune station group about acquiring “Fear Factor” for the broadcast window. That deal will no doubt net millions more for Endemol, though it’s unclear what portion of the deal will be license fee-based or barter.

Deals are important to the unscripted biz, since they demonstrate some reality skeins — or at least those that boast self-contained episodes — can have backend potential.

NBCE scored syndie distribution rights to the show last summer as part of an overall three-year between the Peacock and Endemol to keep the skein on the air through 2007 (Daily Variety, Aug. 27).

Endemol will snag the lion’s share of coin from the FX and syndie deals, with NBCE taking a 20% cut as well as a distribution fee to cover the physical cost of distribution.

There had been talk of more than one cabler teaming up to land the rights to “Fear Factor,” but NBC and Endemol are worried about overexposure of the franchise. TBS, Spike and Game Show Network all expressed interest in the franchise, insiders said.

Despite the overexposure fears, some insiders believe NBCE still may try to find a second cable home for “Fear.” Both FX and NBCE declined comment, while Endemol execs did not return calls seeking comment.

Currently in its fourth season, “Fear Factor” continues to boast boffo ratings among viewers 18-49 and has helped transform NBC’s Monday lineup. And unlike other reality shows, “Fear Factor” has proven repeat biz. Even in its third runs last summer, skein bested original competition on competing broadcasters.

FX is not likely to air the show in primetime, as the cabler is focused on building its original scripted series and movies.

Endemol is repped by WMA and Jeanne Newman.

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