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Big syndie ‘Half’ life

WBDTV laffer could score hefty payday

NEW YORK — If Warner Bros. Domestic TV plays its cards right, the first A-list sitcom in six years will hit the syndication marketplace in late fall: “Two and a Half Men.”

“Everybody Loves Raymond” was the last of the A-list comedies, and “Two and a Half Men” takes over the coveted Monday-at-9 timeslot on CBS this fall from the retiring “Raymond.”

“Men” could end up grossing half a billion dollars in off-network syndication if it scores as big in the Nielsens as it has this season at 9:30 following “Raymond,” particularly among the Madison Avenue-favored 18- to 49-year-old viewers.

Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz TV, the rep firm, said the sky’s the limit for “Two and a Half Men.” The show will get a boost from at least three factors, Carroll said.

“First, it’ll be the cornerstone of CBS’ strong Monday night schedule,” he said. “Second, ‘Raymond’ has become a big success in rerun syndication, auguring well for ‘Two and a Half Men.’ And, third, there’s such a scarcity of A-level sitcoms coming into the marketplace.”

In their NATPE report last month, Carroll and his staff at Katz wrote that the reruns of four current A-list sitcoms are getting alarmingly old: “Raymond” is in its fourth year, “Friends” in its sixth, “Seinfeld” its ninth and “The Simpsons” its 10th.

Carroll said he’s not surprised Warner Bros. Domestic will wait until after “Men” premieres in the 9 o’clock slot in September before pitching the reruns to TV stations.

If the distributor took “Men” out in the spring, TV stations could argue the show is successful mainly due to the “Raymond” lead in and thus not deserving of A-list prices.

The risk is that “Men” might not smack a Nielsen homerun Mondays at 9. But so far this year, “Men” is averaging a 5.6 rating season to date among adults 18-49, the same number as “Raymond.” They are the best-performing network sitcoms in that demo. Harvesting an average of 16.2-million total viewers season to date, “Men” is right on the heels of the 17 million collected by “Raymond.”

The availability date for “Men” in rerun syndication will likely be fall 2007, when at least 88 episodes will be in the can.

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