Di Bona’s ‘Funny’ will get gags gig

Net gives Di Bona permission to use 'Home' clips

Chuck Larsen, president of October Moon TV, generated enough TV-station deals at this week’s NATPE convention to announce a September go for “That’s Funny,” which consists of 80 half-hours of nonstop stunts, pratfalls, pranks and goofy videos.

The executive producer of “That’s Funny” is Vin Di Bona, whose production facility in Los Angeles has churned out “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for the past 15 years, making it the second longest-running primetime series in the history of ABC. Di Bona said his company owns miles of such footage, much of it sent in by amateur camcorder users to shows such as “Funniest Home Videos” and its companion show from Di Bona, “America’s Funniest People,” which ran for four years on ABC.

ABC has given Di Bona permission to use some of the “Funniest Home Videos” clips, he said, but added that network lawyers turned thumbs down when Larsen originally titled the series “Video Funnies.”

Di Bona declined to reveal the production cost of “That’s Funny,” which he and his staff of 28 will put together over the next eight months to meet the September airdate. But he pointed out that since he owns his own production operation specializing in tape and sound editing and graphics, he won’t have to pay exorbitant fees to rent such facilities.

Larsen can be confident that the series is a go, Di Bona said, because October Moon has already hit the license-fee magic number of 35% of the U.S., which covers the cost of the 80 half-hours. Larsen will write in black ink any station deals above the 35% figure.

From a syndication standpoint, the singular aspect of the deal is that October Moon will get its revenues solely from cash payments by the stations.

Cash-only is an extreme rarity for firstrun syndicated shows in the past 15 years or so. The model that became the norm in the ’80s was for the distributor to hold back 30-second spots in each half-hour of a syndicated series, creating a second revenue stream on top of the cash payments.

A number of firstrun shows that are not in demand by the stations go in the other direction, forgoing cash entirely and taking extra 30-second spots. But in a soft advertising marketplace, these distributors can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars by embracing these risky deals.

Larsen said that, being an independent, he has to offer station-friendly contracts. “And stations kept telling me that advertising dollars are coming back to their cities in a big way, so they didn’t want to give these spots to the distributors,” he said.

“When I proposed an all-cash transaction,” Larsen said, “the reaction was immediate: Stations jumped at it.”

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