’70s’ syndie deals to pump C-W-M

Pacts flare Carsey's bell bottoms

HOLLYWOOD — Chalk it up to Ashton Kutcher’s celebrity or to ongoing pop-culture obsession with the Me Decade: “That ’70s Show” could end up funneling more than $700 million to its distributor, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, thanks to a fresh batch of syndication deals.

And that’s only for the first cycle of TV syndication and cable TV.

Jim Kraus, exec VP of domestic-TV distribution for C-W-M, said he’s just wrapping up the sale of a second daily run of “That ’70s Show” to TV stations in 70% of the U.S. for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Show began its syndication-rerun life in September 2002.

These deals will not only swell the total license fee of “That ’70s Show” in rerun syndication to $1.8 million an episode but add three more 30-second spots a day, which C-W-M will be able to sell to national advertisers.

Kraus said the three national spots, which C-W-M holds back in each weekday run, plus another 10 spots in the two weekend runs, could yield an additional $1.8 million an episode, depending on the health of the advertising marketplace through 2008, the end of the first syndication cycle. The Fox network has renewed the show, with Kutcher under contract, for the 2004-05 season.

TV syndication is not the only revenue stream flowing into C-M-W. The distributor will collect $475,000 per half-hour in cash license fees from FX, plus another $125,000 per for two 30-second spots within each run. FX will share “That ’70s Show” with TV stations beginning in September 2005.

Kraus said that because the sitcom well has come up dry on the broadcast nets for the last few years, yielding no must-buys in future syndication, TV stations have already begun contacting him for the second cycle of “That ’70s Show,” which doesn’t begin until fall 2008.

In Nielsen households for off-network syndication, “That ’70s Show” has actually gained viewers in its second year, averaging a 3.8 rating season to date, 3% higher than the 3.7 rating for the same period a year ago. That rating puts it in fourth place among off-net series, behind “Seinfeld” (6.2 rating), “Friends” (6.1) and “Everybody Loves Raymond” (5.6).

In adults 18-34, “That ’70s Show” is tied with “Raymond” for third place season to date, with a 2.9 rating. The No. 1 comedy, “Friends,” averages a 4.9 rating in A18-34; “Seinfeld” is second with a 4.4.