‘King’ aces syndie test

Sony sells sitcom to more than 50% of U.S. stations

“The King of Queens” will be sporting his crown in TV syndication well into the next decade.

Sony Pictures TV has sold the second four-year cycle of “Queens” to TV stations in more than 50% of the U.S., for what could turn out to be a total cash license fee of close to $1.5 million an episode.

That’s on top of the strapping $2 million an episode harvested by Sony for the first cycle of “Queens,” which began in 2003-04 and will run on most stations through 2009-10.

In addition to cash payments from stations, advertiser revenue from the three 30-second spots held back by Sony in each episode could funnel another $500,000 per half-hour in the first cycle, and $200,000 per in the second cycle. At 205 episodes altogether, “Queen” could end up funneling a total of about $800 million into Sony’s coffers by the middle of the next decade.

While declining to talk about dollar figures, John Weiser, president of distribution for Sony Pictures TV, said the consistent Nielsens “Queens” has racked up in its three years in off-network syndication have helped to spark the brisk pace of the renewals.

Weiser also said station buyers are impressed by the fact that Kevin James, the star of “Queens,” is starting to expand his theatrical presence following his appearance in the big-grossing Will Smith vehicle “Hitch.” James has a voice role in this summer’s CGI-animated pic “Monster House,” exec produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. And James will co-star with Adam Sandler in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” which Universal is planning to release in summer 2007.

Another reason for the success of “Queens,” said Chuck Larsen, head of TV consultancy October Moon, is that “there’s a real lack of good, fresh A-level sitcoms coming off the networks” for sale to TV stations.

Since it premiered in off-network syndication in fall 2003, “Queens” has averaged a 2.6 household rating, putting it in the solid second tier of sitcom reruns alongside “That ’70s Show,” “King of the Hill” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”

The three first-tier off-network comedies with built-in national ad spots — “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends” — have averaged between a 5.0 and a 6.5 household rating during the last three years.

“Queens,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for rep firm Katz TV, “is a good, solid player.”

However, stations that carry the show will be facing competition in the fall from “Queens” reruns on TBS.

Carroll said Nielsen problems could arise if the stations play “Queens” in the same time period as TBS. But he added stations knew going in that they’d have to share “Queens” with TBS after three years of exclusive play, the typical deal for just about all sitcoms available for sale in the rerun marketplace.

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