FX wins bid for ‘Married’ cable rights

Cabler shells out $175,000 per episode for sitcom

Rupert Murdoch’s FX has outbid Comedy Central for the cable-TV rights to Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “Married … With Children” for a four-year license term, beginning in September 1999.

Despite the fact that reruns of “Married” have run consistently in off-network syndication for the last seven years, sometimes twice a day in specific markets, FX will pony up a license fee of about $45.3 million, or $175,000 an episode for the 259 half-hours that Col TriStar filmed throughout its 10-1/2-year run on the Fox network.

Col gets spots

In addition to the license fee, FX has agreed to let Col TriStar extract two 30-second spots for the firstrun of “Married” each day. If FX plays the show a second time in the day, the network will keep all of the advertising time.

Peter Liguori, president of FX, says it was hard for him to give up time to Col TriStar within “Married” — a first for FX — but “we regard the show as a cornerstone piece for our network. We’ll use it as a lead-in to the heavy volume of original programming we plan to produce.”

The show will continue in TV syndication when FX picks it up next fall. The network’s exclusivity extends only to cable and to superstations like WGN.

Value is up

The value of “Married” has shot up this year because its gross-out humor parallels that of the surprise summer theatrical hit “There’s Something About Mary,” and Adam Sandler’s “The Waterboy,” which delivered a smash $39.1 million in its opening weekend. TBS and USA also showed interest in the show along with Comedy Central, according to sources.

” ‘Married … With Children’ put the Fox Network on the map” when it premiered in April 1987, said Marc Berman, associate program director of Seltel, a company that advises TV-station clients on their programming strategies. Berman says “Married” is valuable to stations because it’s one of the rare sitcoms that can play successfully both in the early evening and in latenight time periods.

The stars of “Married” are Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate and David Faustino. Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye created the series.

FX reaches about 38 million cable homes.