’30 Rock’ hits the syndie scene

Series set to launch in major markets this fall

Although the TV station business was perhaps at its most difficult in the summer of 2009, the timing was right when it came to selling “30 Rock.”

The Emmy-winning NBC sitcom premieres in syndication this fall.

NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution took “30 Rock” to market about the same time that Tina Fey — the laffer’s star, creator and exec producer — was making waves with her well-received imitation of then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

That buzz boosted interest in the show, say station execs, even though stations were cash-strapped and buying shows in barter-only deals. Channels that acquired “30 Rock” agreed to give three minutes of advertising inventory back to NBC, which is double the typical amount for a sitcom, while keeping four minutes to sell locally.

Syndicators typically make as much in cash license fees as they do in barter sales, so distributing “30 Rock” for double-barter means that the show could be quite lucrative for NBC and “30 Rock’s” profit participants. The show will double run on all stations, and air in access and late fringe timeslots.

“Viewers love to watch episodes of ’30 Rock’ over and over again because of the layers of clever writing that keep the episodes fresh, as well as the quotability factor, the larger-than-life characters and the sarcastic, witty, and yet still relatable, dialogue,” says Barry Wallach, president of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution.

The Fox Television Stations picked up the show in seven markets, including New York and Los Angeles, where it’s guaranteed to air on the Fox stations as opposed to on the Fox-owned MyNetworkTV duopoly stations.

“We really want to be in the business of adding as much high quality product to our stations as we can and at the time, ’30 Rock’ presented itself as a terrific opportunity to build up our sitcom blocks with something as well-written and well-performed as anything in the business. It’s that simple,” says Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming for the Fox Television Stations.

Tribune also acquired “30 Rock” for some stations and for WGN America, which will share the series with Comedy Central.

The two cablers shelled out a reported $800,000 per episode after a bidding war with TBS and E! Audiences will soon learn that “30 Rock” is coming to a station near them.

“We have full support and participation from Tina Fey and the cast of ’30 Rock,'” says Donna Mills, senior VP of marketing, communication and affiliate relations. “We plan to roll out a multi-tiered marketing and promotional campaign that includes a mix of hysterical clips of the show as well as original content that we shot with the cast, beginning as early as May.”

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