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‘Farscape’ plots first trek into syndication

Most expensive cabler series enters reruns

“Farscape,” which ran for 88 episodes on the Sci Fi Channel from 1999 to 2003, is blasting off into rerun syndication for the first time.

Debmar Studios, headed by Mort Marcus and his partner Ira Bernstein, has bought the domestic rights to “Farscape” and is offering the series to TV stations for weekend play in fall 2005. Stations won’t pay cash but will set aside seven minutes within each hour for Debmar to sell to national advertisers.

“Farscape” was one of the most expensive cable-original series ever mounted, filmed in New Zealand by Jim Henson Prods. and Hallmark Entertainment at a cost about $2 million an episode.

Debmar calculated the release date of September carefully, counting on lots of openings in stations’ weekend schedules. Tribune Entertainment, the most active producer of syndicated sci-fi series (“Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda,” “Mutant X”), has no new ones on the drawing board, and three Twentieth TV off-network shows — “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “The X-Files” — are slated to disappear from weekend syndication following the 2004-05 season.

“Farscape” “generated a strong following on the Sci Fi Channel,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz TV, the rep firm. “That usually translates into lots of male viewers when the show goes into syndication.”

Debmar was energized by the average of 1.9 million viewers who tuned in to the four-hour concluding “Farscape” movie on the Sci Fi Channel over two nights last month (Oct. 17 and 18). But Debmar’s contract with Henson and Hallmark covers only the 88 episodes, not the four-hour finale.

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