NEW YORK — The Chris-Craft/United TV station group has dashed the hope of sitcom distributors that it would pull away from its firm policy of demanding exclusive rights to rerun comedies.
“We’re not changing our stance on syndicated exclusivity,” said Bill Frank, senior exec VP of the TV division of Chris-Craft/United. If the distributor of a sitcom wants to include a window for sale of the show to a cable network, Frank says, “then our stations would rather not have it.”
Separately, a number of major sitcom distributors, including Warner Bros., Paramount, Columbia, TriStar, Buena Vista and Eyemark, have taken note of the fact that the Chris-Craft/United-owned station in Baltimore, WUTB, has chalked up surprisingly solid Nielsens with six series that have had — or, like Twentieth TV’s “MASH” on the FX cable network, are about to have — countless runs in syndication and on cable.
The series include “MASH” and five oldies from Columbia TriStar (“Sanford & Son,” “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times” and “Diff’rent Strokes”), all of which have exceeded the station’s audience expectations since they began on Jan. 20, 1998.
But stations sources say WUTB Baltimore was desperate for product when Chris-Craft bought it recently from Silver King because the schedule consisted of nothing but wall-to-wall home shopping.
The only programs available to WUTB were sitcoms whose odometers have recorded heavy mileage. But Frank says Chris-Craft stations like WWOR New York and KCOP Los Angeles are not in that position. Syndicators that want to deal with these stations for an off-network sitcom will have to forgo a cable network sale, at least for the length of the first cycle, which usually runs between five and seven years.