Syndictation Rings ‘Bell’

NBC’s live-action Saturday morning sitcom “Saved By The Bell” is being introduced into strip syndication this fall.

The half-hour show, which has been cleared in more than 50% of the country, is being launched into syndication by Rysher Entertainment – the recently formed production sales firm headed by Keith Samples, former senior v.p., off-net sales at Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution – and the Tribune Co.

Although NBC retains an interest in the show, it chose an outside syndicator for “Bell.”

After the Federal Communication Commission’s revised finsyn rules take effect June 15, networks will be permitted to domestically distribute in-house productions.

The new rules are unclear about whether the webs can syndicate inhouse shows made prior to June 15, said John Agoglia, prexy of NBC Enterprises and exec v.p. of NBC Prods.

The deal involving “Bell” was in the works prior to the FCC’s April 9 decision, he said.

With the show’s average cost of $300,000 per episode, Agoglia said, the only way NBC could recoup its investment was to strip the show in syndication as quickly as possible.

After two seasons of “Bell” on the net, NBC has 65 episodes in the can thanks to a nearly continuous production sked.

Production begins in early July on the 23, with NBC planning to air back-to-back half-hours this fall from 11 a.m. to noon.

That will bring the tally to 88 episodes by the end of next season (a handful of episodes from the show’s run on the Disney Channel will be included in the syndie package).

Trib’s KTLA Los Angeles, WPIX New York and flagship WGN Chicago have committed to the series, with other major-market clearances in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Miami and Pittsburgh.

Trib is selling the barter time for the program. Under Samples’ sales plan, episodes are being sold on an all-barter basis during the first season and straight cash during the second and third seasons. (He estimates about 75% of the show’s clearances will be in early fringe between 4:30 and 6 p.m., with the remainder in the morning.)

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