Trib snares syndicated ‘Susan’

Sources say per-episode fee between $600-700K

It’s official: The off-network syndie biz is back to being a buyer’s market.

Warner Bros. confirmed Monday that it has sold the off-network rights to the NBC comedy “Suddenly Susan” to Tribune Broadcasting in a deal that includes simultaneous telecasts on Trib’s national cable superstation WGN. The Tribune stations cover 12 of the top 20 markets and nearly 35% of all U.S. TV households.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the total per-episode license fee pricetag for 17 stations was said to be in the $600,000-$700,000 range. That’s far less than WB netted in comparable off-net deals — minus the superstation window — for such in-demand fare as “Friends” and “The Drew Carey Show.”

“Suddenly Susan” has never had the golden combo of good ratings and good buzz that boosted the asking prices of “Friends” and “Drew Carey,” but timing also played a part in dampening its initial haul in syndication.

“Suddenly Susan,” set to bow in reruns in fall 2000, hit the off-net market this spring along with a half-dozen other mid-level primetime hits, including CBS/Eyemark’s “Caroline in the City,” DreamWorks’ “Spin City,” Carsey-Werner Co.’s “Cybill” and Brillstein-Grey/Columbia TriStar TV’s “NewsRadio.”

With so many similar-skewing sitcoms to select from, station buyers can afford to be choosy — and demanding. So far, only “Spin City” and “Suddenly Susan” have inked major-market station group deals, although Eyemark is said to be making progress on “Caroline.”

“The stations are more in the driver’s seat this time around, just based on the supply” of available sitcoms, said WBDTD prexy Dick Robertson. “The deal we’ve done (on “Susan”) with Tribune maximizes the value of the show for us and for our profit participants.”

Indeed, the simultaneous window on the WGN superstation is a first for a first-cycle off-network deal, but industry observers say it’s a portent of things to come in the syndie biz. Sources said Tribune held out the WGN superstation runs as a condition of the overall group deal.

In striking the deal with Tribune, Warner Bros. also gave up asking stations for two runs per day as part of the initial deal for “Susan.” As the marketing plan stands now, the second weekday run is optional.

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