‘Criminal’ pact for NBC

Fox in 'Order' for rerun pact

NEW YORK — For the first time in more than a decade, a broadcast network crime show, NBC U’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” will run on TV stations in a Monday-to-Friday rerun grid.

NBC U has signed a batch of Fox-owned TV stations, led by the outlets in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, to take “Criminal Intent” beginning in fall 2007. The stations pay no cash for the series, but will have to give up 7½ minutes within each hour to NBC for national sale.

If NBC U averages a doable $8,000 for a 30-second spot in the two-year deal, the company would harvest $30 million a year. That’s found money for NBC U because there’s no syndication exclusivity: “Criminal Intent” will continue to run on its regular Monday-Friday schedule on USA and its three primetime hours on USA’s Bravo sibling every Sunday.

In modern syndie history, off-network crime shows do run in syndication, but only on the weekends. Cable networks have locked up the Monday-Friday window because they’re willing to pony up bigger bucks than TV stations. For “Criminal Intent,” USA and Bravo jointly paid $1.9 million an episode; only two other hours have fetched more in rerun syndication: “The Sopranos” ($2.5 million, from A&E) and “CSI: New York” ($2.05 million, from Spike).

USA and Bravo will get an undisclosed rebate from NBC U because the original “Criminal Intent” deal was exclusive and didn’t even provide for weekend syndication.

Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming for the Fox O&Os, said he was attracted to the deal because the series has scored bigger ratings on NBC this year in its new time period of Tuesday at 9.

In the markets where Fox owns two stations, “Criminal Intent” most likely will play on the MyNetworkTV outlet, not the Fox Broadcasting station, Cicha said. A lot of these stations, he continued, will schedule the series either in latenight or in early fringe (4-6 p.m.).

Cicha sees “Criminal Intent” as “an appropriate backup show,” particularly since there are so few successful sitcom reruns coming into syndication, and some of the new and returning firstrun series are not drawing enough viewers to be confident of a renewal for 2007-08.

Barry Wallach, president of domestic TV distribution for NBC U, said there’s no reason an hourlong crime show shouldn’t go into syndication in a simultaneous window with a cable network — sitcoms do it all the time. He cites “Seinfeld,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Friends” as examples of comedies that are doing well despite the fact that they play alongside one another in syndication and on TBS.

Although most of the buyers are expected to be Fox, CW and MyNet stations, Garnett Losak, VP of programming for rep firm Petry TV, said Big Three affiliates that have failed with firstrun shows against powerhouse competition like “Oprah” and “Judge Judy” might choose “Criminal Intent” as counterprogramming.

Bill Carroll, VP programming for rep firm Katz TV, said he was surprised by NBC U’s decision to bring out “Criminal Intent.” “You have to go back to ‘Magnum, P.I.’,” he said, “to find the last successful off-network hour in syndication.” And the heyday of “Magnum” reruns was the mid- to late ’80s.

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