Show selling despite economic downturn

When “30 Rock” won its first comedy series Emmy in 2007, star and creator Tina Fey thanked the show’s “dozens and dozens” of viewers.

That quip summed up the apparent business quandary the low-rated critical darling presented for the Peacock and Universal Media Studios: “30 Rock” could win awards, but would it ever make back its production costs in syndication?

That question was answered with a resounding “yes” last week when NBC’s syndie arm clinched off-network cable deals for the show with Comedy Central and WGN America for a surprisingly robust $800,000 an episode, and it’s now cutting deals with local TV stations that will bring in tens of millions more over the long haul.

Although the off-network marketplace has been in the dumps because of the economy and the ad slump, “30 Rock” benefited from good timing — there aren’t many other sitcoms coming down the off-net pike — and the fact its upscale aud is highly desirable to multiple cablers, including E! and TBS.

And then there’s the sweetener you get when program buyers happen to be big fans of a show.

“It’s a home run for the show and for NBC Universal,” says syndie vet Chuck Larsen, who repped the “30 Rock” profit participants in the sale process. “It proves that good sitcoms are still in demand.”

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