3 short-lived sitcoms get new USA life

'Hearts,' 'Almost,' 'Fired' to run in daytime block

NEW YORK — Barry Diller’s USA Network has bought three sitcom reruns with a limited number of episodes: Mozark’s “Hearts Afire” and two from Paramount TV, “Almost Perfect” and “Fired Up.” The net will slot them in its daytime comedy block.

For the past year, USA has created a daytime haven for sitcom reruns that played for fewer than three years on the broadcast networks, scoring a 31% increase in household ratings from 9 a.m.-noon for the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year.

The net’s strategy has emboldened USA to extend its comedy block to five hours per day.

A USA spokeswoman declined to discuss financial details, but sources say the network is paying the sitcom distributors $25,000-$40,000 an episode for a license term that averages about three years.

Various sources said it’s easier for a distributor to sell limited-run sitcoms to a cable network because the union residuals on each episode come out to between $3,000 and $5,000 for each half-hour. That’s a fraction of the $100,000-an-episode union payment if the series went to TV stations in off-network syndication.