'Futurama' in Comedy's future via big deal

Comedy Central has engineered the biggest series rerun buy in its 14-year history, laying out $400,000 a half-hour for exclusive cable-TV rights to Twentieth TV’s animated comedy “Futurama.”

“Futurama,” whose reruns are scoring solid numbers on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim after a five-year primetime stint on the Fox Network (1999-2003), arrives at Comedy Central with 72 episodes in January 2008 for a five-year license term. The show’s Adult Swim contract expires in December 2007.

In July Comedy Central bought a shared window to 117 rerun half-hours of Buena Vista TV’s “Scrubs,” the network’s most aggressive off-network purchase up to that time. Comedy Central get “Scrubs” in fall 2006 simultaneous with its run on the WGN superstation and on TV stations throughout the country in syndication.

“But our bread and butter is still original programming,” said David Bernath, senior VP of programming for Comedy Central. Net will play both “Scrubs” and “Futurama” weeknights in primetime, treating them as presold commodities to bring in viewers who’ll then get bombarded with pitches for the Comedy Central originals.

Bernath said that Comedy Central is No. 1 in primetime among men 18-24, and “Futurama” and “Scrubs” already draw a chunk of that audience.

Speaking of “Futurama,” he said that “there aren’t many series available that dovetail so perfectly with the Comedy Central brand.” Twentieth has reserved the rights to sell “Futurama” reruns to TV stations in off-net syndication at the same time as its Comedy Central plays. Comedy Central’s exclusivity extends only to cable TV.

Created by Matt Groening (“The Simpsons”), “Futurama” is a satire of sci-fi movies and comicbooks set hundreds of years in the future. Bernath cites the show’s “edgy, adult humor,” chockfull of characters like Bender the robot, a porn-addicted crackhead.

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