Tribune snares ‘Idol’

Hit reality skein offers syndie rights

“American Idol,” the mother of all talent contests, is planning to make its debut in TV syndication this fall.

Tribune Entertainment has bought the syndication rights to reruns of “American Idol” for scheduling on weekends beginning in September.

This late entry in the syndie sweepstakes could make for a lively convention of the National Assn. of TV Program Executives in Las Vegas later this month as Tribune seeks to clear “Idol” on TV stations throughout the country.

The Tribune O&Os are on board, and the distributor’s marketing plan is likely to call for no cash payments by the stations. Instead, the stations would compensate Tribune by giving it seven minutes within each hourlong episode to sell to national advertisers.

The Fox Network has avoided using reruns of “Idol” since it premiered in June 2002, anticipating that mass audiences might not be interested if they already knew the winners in each of the first two seasons. The show’s appeal, at least in part, comes from the weekly eliminations that build suspense over which of the contestants will emerge as No. 1.

But on Saturday, the Fox Reality Channel will begin a rerun marathon of all 43 episodes of the fourth season of “Idol,” playing the show every night through Jan. 17, the night that Season 5 of “Idol” premieres on the Fox Network.

Tribune is expected to put all its big marketing guns behind “Idol” at the NATPE convention because the distributor has no other rookie series available for sale in the fall.

“Idol,” hosted by Ryan Seacrest, has become a Nielsen phenomenon, dominating the competition on the nights that it runs (Tuesday and Wednesday). It was the highest-rated series in all of network primetime in total viewers and in adults 18 to 49 for each of the last two seasons.

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