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WGN loves ‘Raymond,’ buys rights

$134,000 per episode shelled out by Chi station

Tribune Broadcasting is poised to open its own chapter of the “Everybody Loves Raymond” fan club.

Tribune’s Chicago flagship, WGN, ponied up significant coin to pick up the off-network rights to the CBS sitcom late last week from “Raymond” distrib Eyemark Entertainment. Last month, Tribune’s WPIX New York and KTLA Los Angeles inked big-bucks deals for “Raymond” reruns beginning in fall 2001.

In Chi, spirited bidding among local stations for “Raymond” rights drove the final cash license fee up to the $75,000-$80,000 per week range. That works out to roughly $134,000 per episode, for at least 124 segs, over the minimum 4¼-year license term, which will automatically be extended by nearly 10 months for every season “Raymond” remains in primetime after 2000-01.

The deal applies only to WGN’s local Chi-area broadcast coverage and not its widely distributed national cable superstation feed.

Eyemark is holding out the possibility of a cable window for “Raymond” beginning in the fourth year of its syndie run. Turner’s TBS is said to be among the cablers interested in “Raymond,” which has blossomed into a standout performer for the Eye web thus far in its third season.

Courting buyers

In other off-net news, distribs are trying to whet the appetite of cable and syndie buyers for such upcoming off-net contenders as ABC’s “Dharma & Greg” and “The Practice,” both from Fox’s Twentieth Century Fox TV, and the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek,” produced by Columbia TriStar TV.

Stars from those skeins will be pressing the flesh next week at the syndie biz’s annual National Assn. of TV Program Executives sales confab (Jan. 25-28) in New Orleans. The list includes Dylan McDermott and Camryn Manheim from “The Practice”; Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson, aka Dharma & Greg; and “Dawson’s” heartthrobs James Van Der Beek and Michelle Williams.

Columbia TriStar TV Distribution is also shepherding the Brillstein-Grey sitcoms “Just Shoot Me” (NBC) and “The Steve Harvey Show” (WB) into the off-net arena. “Just Shoot Me’s” Laura San Giacomo, David Spade and George Segal will be making the trek to the Big Easy next week, along with Harvey.

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