Priority: Saving ‘The Job’

Skeins get second chance with first season repeats

HOLLYWOOD — Forget, for a moment, those industrywide arguments over “repurposing” and early off-network windows. For the producers of ABC’s “The Job,” there’s no debate.

Overriding any other concerns: A desire to save the show — by any means necessary.

That’s why DreamWorks and Touchstone TV last week announced plans to run the first season of “The Job” on Comedy Central this month, as ABC continues to air the show’s second season segs.

The “Job” arrangement isn’t a “repurposing” deal, where network episodes immediately repeat on cable. This is more of an off-network run — and a very premature one at that. Most primetime shows wait until they’ve produced 100 episodes before carving out an off-network run. “The Job” will do it with six.

Providing such an early off-net window isn’t the best way to safeguard your asset’s longterm value. But for shows on the fence, finding a way to get more viewers –fast — takes priority over other worries.

“If you have a show that’s working, then it’s important that you protect the exclusivity of both your network play and protect the uniqueness of your show’s syndication value,” says 20th Century Fox TV co-prexy Gary Newman. “But when you have a show that isn’t performing, all bets are off in terms of everything you’ve ever heard about exclusivity and the normal course of the business.”

And right now, the way things are heading, “The Job” has about as much a chance at hitting off-net syndication as star Denis Leary does quitting smoking.

Enter Comedy Central.

DreamWorks and Touchstone TV are treating the cable run as a purely promotional ploy; rather than pay a license fee, Comedy Central will give ABC promo time in exchange for the show.

But won’t “The Job’s” Comedy Central run hurt its eventual backend value, especially if it tanks on the cabler? Could the show’s eventual asking price be permanently damaged should it actually survive and hit 100 episodes?

“It’s one of the first questions I raised with my sales guy,” says DreamWorks TV co-head Justin Falvey. “Those would be high-class problems for me. We would love to get to that place, and this is part of a campaign to actually get to that place.”

It’s still a gamble. In another recent example, Viacom Prods. allowed VH1 to repeat the first season episodes of critical fave “The Chris Isaak Show” right before Showtime premiered the skein’s second season. Results were mixed; like “The Job” scenario, it’s unclear whether that VH1 run will impact the studio’s eventual off-net sale of the show.

But those are risks that studios are more than willing to take when it comes to getting the word out.

“Even if you sacrifice some money by repeating season one, you’ve got to get out to seasons four and five,” Newman says. “You’re still on the side of the equation where you’re trying to create critical mass.”

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