‘Fear Factor’ at Peacock 3 more years

Net to pay between $1.25 mil and $1.5 mil for fifth season

NBC and Endemol USA have wrapped up a lucrative three-year deal that could keep hit reality skein “Fear Factor” through May 2007.

As part of the pact, NBC Enterprises has landed the syndie distribution rights to the show and will begin pitching cablers and local stations on an off-net window of “Fear” that could open as early as fall 2004.

Industry insiders said NBC will pay Endemol, led by topper David Goldberg, between $1.25 million and $1.5 million for the fifth season of “Fear,” which starts in fall 2004. While the show hasn’t technically been renewed for a fifth season, NBC is on the hook for most of that season’s coin no matter what.

Peacock then has an option for the sixth and seventh seasons of “Fear,” with an escalating license fee that will end up at between $1.7 million and $2 million in the final year of the deal. Net currrently pays a little less than $900,000 per show.

NBC is also giving Endemol very favorable terms on the distribution fee NBCE will take, therefore allowing Endemol to make a larger-than-normal backend profit.

Peacock entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker called the “Fear” deal “one of the easiest decisions” he’s had to make.

” ‘Fear Factor’ has been one of the huge reality successes of the past couple seasons, and it’s one of the most underestimated shows in all of television,” Zucker told Daily Variety. “And from an economic standpoint, it’s become one of the most financially important shows to us.”

That’s because, unlike most reality shows, “Fear Factor” holds up very well in repeats. Even in third runs this summer, skein has outdrawn original competish on competing webs.

“Fear” doesn’t generate the same premium ad rates as “American Idol” or “Survivor,” but Zucker said the net has no problem getting top advertisers to the skein.

Goldberg said he was glad “Fear” would be staying at NBC.

“Despite interest from other networks, we always wanted the show to remain there,” he said. “They believed in the shows when others didn’t. (And) this is a scenario every production company dreams of, which is a long-running, ongoing network show with a substantial off-network business.”

New deal, which was put together by attorney Jeanne Newman and WMA, has been in the works for several months but was only wrapped on late Monday.

While Endemol and NBCE haven’t formally begun talking about off-net possibilities, it’s likely NBCE, led by prexy Ed Wilson, will pitch cable networks like TBS, Spike, TLC and ABC Family for the five-a-week play beginning in the fall of 2004 before taking the show to TV stations in off-network syndication.

Based on the NBC track record of “Factor,” and its solid young demos, a cable network would be willing to pay a cash license fee that could reach the $400,000-an-episode range. And the distributor would also be able to carve out a simultaneous one-run or two-run weekend play on TV stations through the country.

These stations wouldn’t pay license fees, but would allow the distrib to take seven minutes within each hour to sell to national advertisers. Stations would keep the revenues only on the seven minutes they would hang on to for local sale.

Those seven national minutes could be worth an additional $100,000-to-$200,000 an episode to the distributor in the first cycle, depending on how many years stations would keep renewing it on the weekend.

For five-a-week TV syndication, the distrib’s best strategy would be to go after latenight time periods on Fox, WB and UPN affiliates, which are suffering from declining ratings of the dating shows that clog up the post-11 p.m. schedules. “Fear Factor” probably wouldn’t work in daytime or early fringe because of the absence of the young viewers the show appeals to.

But because latenight is a relatively low visibility timeslot to most TV stations, the distrib wouldn’t be able to get cash license fees. For example, all of the dating shows are strictly all-barter/no-cash. And stations might not be willing to sign a deal for longer than two years, whereas a cable network might agree to a three-year to five-year contract.