As CBS and Warner Bros. TV sort out the details on greenlighting a 10th season of “Two and a Half Men” for the fall, questions have surfaced over the status of Warner Bros.’ syndication deals for the show and of the contract talks with star Ashton Kutcher.
The initial round of syndie deals for the show included a provision that the license term would be capped at nine seasons. Such a cap is usually welcomed by stations in cases when they’re paying big bucks for a show — it’s insurance against a show losing steam in its later years. “Men” has made a mint for Warner Bros. and its station partners since it went into reruns in 2007.
When it became apparent that Chuck Lorre and Co. had pulled off the feat of reinventing the show with Kutcher after Charlie Sheen’s departure, it raised the issue of how a 10th season would be accounted for in Warners’ syndie contracts. It seemed particularly complicated as Warner Bros. had reached deals with stations in 2010 for the second cycle of “Men’s” syndie afterlife, again under the assumption that the show would not go more than nine seasons in primetime.
But in a deal point that didn’t seem all that momentous at the time, Warner’s second-cycle contracts called for stations to license “all episodes produced,” rather than incorporating the nine-season cap included in the first-cycle deals. Now that season 10 is in the offing, Warner Bros. won’t have the chance to sell those episodes for a higher first-cycle price. (It’s not an issue for the studio on the cable side yet because the deal with FX is believed to be capped at 10 seasons.)
But because “Men” has performed so well in syndication, WB’s second-cycle fees were already plenty high — much higher than the pricetag typically commanded by shows in their second syndie go-round.
While Warner Bros. minds its syndie contracts, CBS execs are understood to be taking the lead in negotiating a new contract with Kutcher, who signed just a one-season deal last year.
Eye brass are handling the talks because it’s the network that will have to cover Kutcher’s final payday anyway. Under the terms of CBS’ deal with Warner Bros. for the primetime series, the net is on the hook to cover the studio’s production costs.
Those costs dropped this past season after Sheen (who made about $1.25 million per seg) left the scene. But they’re sure to be on the upswing again if Kutcher commits to another year or two.