NEW YORK — Warner Bros. Domestic’s “The Drew Carey Show” has landed its first offnet syndication deal: WNYW, the Fox O&O in New York, will pony up about $175,000 an episode for exclusive N.Y. rights.
That license fee is below the $200,000 an episode with which Warner Bros. opened the market, but sources said it’s a solid price, because Warners is taking three 30-second spots in each of the five weekday runs, instead of the usual two :30s.
If New York is a harbinger for TV stations throughout the rest of the country, sources say the “Carey” show may be headed for the rarefied fiscal atmosphere of $2 million an episode from a combination of station license fees and barter revenues that Warners chalks up from national advertisers.
“Carey” becomes available in off-network syndication in the fall of 1999. A spokesman for Warner Bros. Domestic declined to comment on any “Carey” negotiations. WNYW executives also said they’d have no comment.
Sources said Warner Bros. has opened “Carey” in Chicago, the second market in the company’s sales blueprint, for an aggressive $160,000 an episode, and Chicago’s TV station general managers are now deciding whether to bid or not.
Warners has also slapped a Chicago pricetag of $30,000 an episode on “In the House,” the ethnic sitcom now running in primetime on UPN. WNYW didn’t buy “In the House” with “Carey,” so “House” is still available in N.Y.
Warner Bros. has included some tough provisos in the “Carey” contract. For example, TV stations must play the “Carey” reruns in the access time period of 7 to 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) at least for the first 3¼ years of its syndication life. And stations will have to schedule a sixth run every week with six 30-second spots of commercial time in the half-hour, instead of the weekday three :30s carved out by Warner Bros.
Warners also reserves the right to sell the “Carey” reruns to a cable network in year four of the show’s first syndication cycle, ending the TV station’s exclusivity. If ABC keeps renewing the firstrun episodes of the “Carey” show, the first syndication cycle could stretch out into six or seven years before the reruns would come up for renewal.
Betting on Turner
Sources say Warners hasn’t concluded a cable deal yet, but TBS, which like Warner Bros. is owned by Time Warner, is the odds-on favorite to get “Carey.”
Comparatively, the $175,000-an-episode price in New York is below the $235,000 a half-hour WPIX paid for Buena Vista TV’s “Home Improvement” and the $225,000 an episode WPIX shelled out for Paramount Domestic’s “Frazier.” But the distributors of each of those sitcoms are holding back only two :30s in each half-hour for sale to national advertisers.
Marching right behind the sales executives at Warner Bros. are their counterparts at Carsey-Werner Distribution, which is about to open the offnet marketplace for “Third Rock From the Sun.”
Syndication observers say “Third Rock” has already generated must-buy intensity from a number of big-city TV station general managers, even though the sitcom won’t become available until the fall of the year 2000.