'Syndication' deal opens options for Hollywood

Netflix grabbed the TV biz’s attention on Thursday with a deal that signals the company is open for business in the off-network syndication market in a way that could be particularly appealing to Hollywood.

In a first for Netflix, the company has cut a four-year deal with Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution for web streaming rights to all 100 episodes of “Nip/Tuck,” which wrapped its six-season run on FX in March. The pact also gives Netflix streaming rights to selected other Warner Bros. skeins, including “Pushing Daisies,” “Veronica Mars” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

Netflix has numerous TV series available for web streaming on its platform, but the Warners pact marks the first time the company has cut a traditional syndie-style off-network acquisition deal. And Netflix is paying cable-level off-net coin for the “Nip/Tuck” rights, said to be a little more than $200,000 per episode over the life of the deal. Warner Bros. has also sold “Nip/Tuck” rights to cabler Logo to bow in October.

“This agreement breaks new ground for both of us in the area of subscription, commercial-free streaming of first cycle syndication network and cable TV shows,” said Robert Kyncl, Netflix’s veep of content acquisition.

The Netflix deal is a saving grace to Warner Bros. on “Nip/Tuck” because the studio had struggled for years to find an off-network home for the series about two adventurous plastic surgeons. The show was a tough sell because it was so closely associated with FX, which made the rerun package less attractive to rival cablers, and because it frequently pushed the envelope on sexual content as well as its depictions of surgical procedures.

But those elements only made “Nip/Tuck” more attractive to Netflix, which caters to the kind of movie aficionado aud that would not blink at risque content. Nor does the subscription service have to worry about advertiser concerns, as programs air commercial-free on its web streaming platform.

MTV Networks’ Logo doesn’t have the coffers to pay big bucks for the show, but the Netflix deal combined with Logo make for a respectable backend on a show with limited appeal to general entertainment cablers.

The niche markets cultivated by Netflix could be a godsend to studios that produce shows with a cult following and critical acclaim but don’t last long enough to amass enough episodes for a traditional syndication deal. “Veronica Mars,” “Pushing Daisies” and “Sarah Connor Chronicles” fit that description to a tee. Netflix is unlikely to pay much for shows of that ilk, but something is better than nothing.

“We see this as an interesting development where a new competitor for (off-network) product has come along, and the kinds of shows that they’re willing to buy fits into a nice niche from our point of view,” said Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution prexy Ken Werner.

Deal with Warner Bros. comes after Netflix bought the pay cable window on selected features produced by Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity banner for web streaming (Daily Variety, July 7).

The burst of activity ensures that Hollywood will keep the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company on speed dial as every major studio looks to experiment with new ways of squeezing fresh coin out of digital distribs.

The pact with WB also extends Netflix’s license to offer web streaming of about 300 older film titles through next year.

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