Reality rocks cable

VH1 steps up for 'Model,' 'Tommy Lee' reruns

In a pair of deals worth more than $6 million, VH1 has bought exclusive off-net rights to UPN hit skein “America’s Next Top Model” and NBC’s upcoming “Tommy Lee Goes to College.”

Pacts for “Model” and “Tommy” follow the recent cable syndie sales of long-running broadcast hits “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” (Daily Variety, June 1) — and offer up more evidence that select reality shows can generate significant coin in aftermarket syndication.

Cabler declined comment on license fees but is said to be spending $75,000 an episode for “Model.” VH1 has rights to 77 episodes — which includes the upcoming fifth and sixth seasons — with options for more should UPN greenlight additional seasons. King World distributes the skein produced by 10 by 10 Entertainment and Bankable Prods.

As for the six-episode “Tommy,” from NBC U Television Studios, cabler will pay close to $100,000 per episode.

Outdoor Life Network last week snapped up all 10 seasons of “Survivor” for more than $10 million ($65,000 an episode). And “Fear Factor” — the first primetime network reality show to sell into off-net syndie — went to FX for $30 million.

Meanwhile, GSN is finalizing a deal to bring “The Amazing Race” to the cabler. And MTV, which has been repurposing “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic,” has licensed repeats of the skein for six months after its run on UPN concludes.

VH1 has bought three-year license terms for “Model” and currently can air the first three seasons. Cabler can begin skedding episodes from season four in September — a window that begins just three months after its UPN run, which concluded to an aud of 6.1 million viewers in May.

MTV Networks Music Group entertainment prexy Brian Graden said that proximity to the premiere run was “key” in making the deal. Exec added that VH1, a channel focused on pop culture nostalgia, is open to becoming a major buyer of network reality “as long as the windows are right.”

“Pop culture is moving so fast, if you don’t play in the moment, you don’t win on the acquisition front,” Graden said. “Part of VH1’s brand proposition is to traffic in the pop culture you love at this very moment. To celebrate a franchise like ‘Top Model,’ you can’t wait two or three years to get it on the air.”

Then there’s “Tommy,” which VH1 can begin running the day after its finale on the NBC. Skein, slated for an August premiere on the Peacock, features the Motley Crue rocker hitting the books at the U. of Nebraska at Lincoln. VH1 bought 30-month licensing terms and will also repurpose same-week episodes during the show’s premiere run.

Graden, who hadn’t seen any footage from the series when he made the deal, said, “It seemed so on point for VH1, it was worth taking the gamble.”

As far as scheduling, Graden said he’ll be airing “Model” marathons — as it did last Thursday with episodes from season one — scheduling the show in vertical stacks. Net has not yet decided on how to sked “Tommy Lee” when it premieres in September.

VH1 last acquired the WB’s “The Surreal Life,” for which it now produces fresh episodes. Skein has become the cabler’s highest-rated original series.

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