‘Harvey’ hops to TBS

Cabler pays Sony $18 mil, gets Oct. start

NEW YORK — TBS has bought the cable TV rights to Sony Pictures Television’s “The Steve Harvey Show” for an estimated license fee of $18 million.

The sitcom ended up with a 5½-year run on the WB, leaving the schedule during the 2001-02 season after racking up 122 half-hour episodes.

Sony will be able to ship “Harvey” to TBS in October 2003, a year earlier than the usual delivery date for cable in a shared syndication/cable window.

The reason for the earlier window goes back to the way Sony sold the sitcom in rerun syndication. “Harvey” started in off-network syndication in fall 2001. Sluggish demand for sitcoms forced Sony into making no-cash deals with stations. Instead of cash, stations gave up seven 30-second spots within each episode to Sony for sale to national advertisers.

Traditionally, when stations pay cash, they insist on keeping exclusivity in their markets for the first three years before a nationally distributed cable network can begin to share in the runs.

TBS has developed a voracious appetite for sitcoms, running them across the board from 1-8 p.m. each weekday (with “Seinfeld” getting two additional runs every Wednesday at 8 and 8:30 p.m.).

The plan is to run “Harvey” in the early afternoon as part of the lead-in block to TBS Nielsen bellwethers like “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “Home Improvement.”

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