‘Moesha’ for sale

Worldvision tests sitcom in the off-net market

Although UPN comedy “Moesha” has only been on the air for a year, Worldvision Enterprises last week began meeting with station groups about selling off-net rights to the sitcom for the year 2000, the company confirmed.

Worldvision president John Ryan met with the Fox station group last week, and Tribune Broadcasting is scheduled to meet with him this week. Chris-Craft, which owns half of UPN, is also said to be very interested in snagging rights to the sitcom, which stars 18-year-old singer/actress Brandy Norwood.

It’s extremely unusual for a studio to begin selling off-net sitcoms so far in advance. Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution grabbed headlines in late 1995 when it sold off-net rights to the NBC comedy “Friends” for 1998 after it had been on the air just over a year.

Stations clamoring

Ryan said he’s taking UPN’s blue-chip sitcom “Moesha” out now at the request of stations, and the show will be sold for cash plus barter. Ryan would not be more specific, but station and rep sources say they will probably structure a deal similar to that of Paramount Domestic TV’s “Sister, Sister,” which is expected to bring in about $600,000 an episode.

Worldvision may be taking the sitcom out so early because Warner Bros. just sold off-net rights to the WB netlet sitcoms “The Wayans Bros.” and “The Parent Hood” to Tribune Broadcasting, which also picked up the second cycle of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” at the same time. Warner Bros. has also been sending out feelers about “The Drew Carey Show” and “In the House” for 1999.

Staying ahead of the game

Worldvision, some industry sources speculated, does not want to fall behind the curve. Ethnic sitcoms tend to sell and perform very well in large, urban markets. But often they penetrate less deeply into the rest of the country. Worldvision wants to take “Moesha” to market before Warner Bros. is able to sell its sitcoms outside the top markets.

Despite the risk involved with buying a sitcom so early in its network cycle, the head of one large station group said, “It’s a smart move.”

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