Ion getting in on USA’s ‘NCIS’ runs

Series will air twice a day starting Sept. 8

CBS TV Distribution has sold the broadcast rights to its long-running “NCIS” series to Ion TV, which will share the reruns with USA starting next month.

USA, which pre-bought “NCIS” two years ago for a license fee north of $750,000 an episode, had expected to share “NCIS” with TV stations around the country in a weekend broadcast double run.

But the weekend-syndication market is chockfull of off-network shows, including three from CBS TV (“CSI: Miami,” “Numbers” and “Criminal Minds”). So CBS asked USA if it could substitute Ion for TV stations in the broadcast window. Ion is a low-visibility broadcast network made up mostly of UHF-positioned TV stations (although it uses cable and satellite to reach 94 million homes).

USA agreed, realizing that it would come out ahead competitively: The ratings of “NCIS” will be much lower on Ion than if the show were in weekend TV syndication. The beauty of the deal for CBS is that the Eye clinched it in a set of negotiations with one buyer; weekend syndication would’ve forced it to line up TV stations in every U.S. market.

Starting Sept. 8, USA plans to run “NCIS” twice a day, at 5 and 6 p.m. Ion also will start running the series on Sept. 8, playing it only twice a week, each Monday and Tuesday at 9 p.m. The Tuesday run will be coming out of the original play of “NCIS” on the CBS network at 8.

Ion continues to beef up its schedule, having previously bought reruns of “ER” and “Boston Legal,” as well as sitcom oldies such as “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” and “The Steve Harvey Show.” And Ion will soon add two other CBS shows, “Ghost Whisperer,” which it will share with Sci Fi Channel and WE, and “Criminal Minds,” which it will share with A&E.

USA has already taken weekly runs of “NCIS” since January in various time periods, buying these extra runs in what the industry calls repurposing.

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