New Line TV originally bought rights to 'Chappelle,' 'Reno'

MGM TV Distribution has picked up the domestic-syndication rights to reruns of two Comedy Central series: “Reno 911″ and “Chappelle’s Show.”

The timing of the announcement comes within 10 days of the Natpe convention in Las Vegas, where MGM will unveil the shows, offering them to TV stations for the fall.

New Line TV originally bought the syndication rights to the two series. But when it decided to phase out of the syndie business, it took on MGM as a partner to distribute “Reno 911″ and “Chappelle’s Show.”

The pitch: TV stations would buy both shows in a package but would not have to pay cash for either of them. Instead, stations would give half of the advertising time in each run of the two shows to MGM for sale to national advertisers.

Latenight time periods are the likely destination for the two shows because they both push the boundaries of content. Censors will have to sanitize many of the episodes for foul language and sexual references.

For their original runs, Comedy Central slapped a TV-MA label on “Chappelle’s Show,” a more restrictive rating than the TV-13 affixed to “Reno 911.”

“Reno 911,” which is still in production for a fifth season, has built up an inventory on Comedy Central of 70 half-hour episodes, which would run weeknights. MGM will restrict “Chappelle’s Show” to two runs on the weekend because Dave Chappelle and his writing partner Neal Brennan produced only 30 half-hours before the star famously walked away from the show, bringing production to a halt two years ago.

Jim Packer, president of worldwide TV distribution for MGM, said the recent success of “Sex & the City” and “South Park” in rerun syndication has made it easy for him to market “Reno 911″ and “Chappelle’s Show,” even though they’re coming off cable networks, not broadcast networks.

“A few years ago, a station would hesitate to buy a show that ran on a cable network,” Packer said. “Now, they don’t give it even a second thought.”

Packer and his executive VP for broadcast strategy John Bryan engineered the deal for distributing the shows with David Spiegelman, senior executive VP of domestic-TV distribution for New Line TV, and Michele Ganeless, executive VP and general manager of Comedy Central.

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