Studios look to SVOD window for off-net profits on serialized fare

The Ewing clan can safely plan to settle in to Southfork for a while thanks to a licensing pact Warner Bros. has inked with Netflix for TNT’s revival of “Dallas.”

Deal is another sign of Netflix’s influence in shifting traditional syndication protocols. The “Dallas” pact calls for the first two seasons of TNT’s new-model “Dallas” to become available exclusively for streaming on Netflix in January 2014, well before the show is available to cable or broadcast buyers as an off-network property.

Also Monday, Netflix announced a deal with Turner Broadcasting for access to older seasons of a slew of Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. Animation and Adult Swim programs to bolster the offerings in the fast-growing kidvid section of the Netcaster.

The timing of the arrival of “Dallas” on Netflix is a clear signal that TNT and “Dallas” producer Warner Horizon Television see the show as running at least three seasons on the cabler; the show’s second season is set to bow Jan. 28. The decision to take “Dallas” to Netflix is also a sign that Warner Bros. doesn’t see much upside for the sudser in traditional syndication, where heavily serialized dramas tend to struggle compared to other genres. Instead, the studio is banking on a Netflix berth for previous “Dallas” seasons to drive new viewers into its third season, presumably airing in 2014.

The “Dallas” deal comes on the heels of another Netflix-Warner Bros. licensing pact for drama-series fare unveiled last week. It covers shows ranging from “The West Wing” and “Chuck” to Fox’s yet-to-premiere serial-killer thriller “The Following.”

Netflix’s dive into the WB vault is a sign that studios are getting more aggressive in making the most of emerging windows for network programming at subscription VOD services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. As the competition increases from Amazon, Netflix is looking to stock up on as much binge-worthy programming as it can given its subscribers’ appetite for watching multiple episodes of a show in one sitting.

The demand for these serialized shows from SVOD services is making it possible for studios to commit to high-end serialized fare. For years, sudsers and other serials have drawn only a fraction of the coin that hit procedurals and sitcoms do in the traditional off-net market because the latter genres have proven to have a longer shelf life in reruns on local broadcast stations and cablers.

For studios, making the most of SVOD deals in some cases requires a shift in the templates for contract agreements with networks, even when those nets are under the same corporate parent, as in the case of Warner Bros. and TNT. Industry sources say there’s horse-trading going on to shorten the lag time that networks demand between when the show’s season ends and when it can be licensed for SVOD. In exchange for adjusting those windows, sources say, some studios are granting networks more flexibility for online distribution of current episodes within their firstrun network cycles.

The announcement of the “Dallas” deal and the Turner kidvid pact came on the same day for a specific reason. Netflix, according to a source, wanted the deals to underscore to Turner/WB rival Viacom that it has a pipeline for animated programming beyond Viacom’s Nickelodeon. Viacom brass are said to be concerned that its licensing pact with Netflix contributed to a drop in the live ratings for Nickelodeon during the past two years.

Among the skeins that will bow on Netflix staring March 30 are Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time,” “Ben 10,” “Regular Show” and “Johnny Bravo,” Warner Bros. Animation’s “Green Lantern” and Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “The Boondocks.”

Netflix’s “Just for Kids” section received a massive influx of content late last month as part of a massive theatrical output deal inked with Disney. The pact brought many of the Mouse House’s classic toons to Netflix in addition to rights to new pics starting with Disney’s 2016 releases.

“We are delighted that Netflix will become the exclusive over-the-top streaming subscription destination for past seasons of favorite Cartoon Network and Adult Swim titles,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who also called “Dallas” one of “the greatest all-time guilty pleasures.”

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