It’s raining ‘Men’ in syndicated push

WB offers Internet rights, syndie package to local nets

Warner Bros. is going to sell “Two and a Half Men” into syndication on two screens at once.

In an industry first, the studio’s Warner Bros. Television Distribution arm plans to sell Internet rights along with the syndication package it will offer to local stations for fall 2007. WBTD will start pitching “Two and a Half Men” to stations this week.

Online ads, including video and graphics, will be split on a 50/50 barter basis similar to TV ad time.

While broadcast and cable nets have been aggressive selling and streaming their programs on-air, WBTD’s move is the first by a syndicator for off-net fare. It’s also the first time a studio set up an Internet streaming deal separate from any network involvement.

Local stations will get the right to Webcast five episodes per week on their own site the week after they air on TV.

“Two and a Half Men” is sure to be a hot property in syndication, since it’s the first successful new comedy to hit the market in a while, and no other highly rated half-hours are on the short-term horizon.

Warners is hoping to up the value even higher, however, through the Internet add-on.

“We had meetings where we considered doing this on WarnerBros.com, but we decided people should experience the show through their local stations,” said Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution prexy Dick Robertson. “Not only will stations get new inventory around ‘Two and a Half Men’ online, but they will draw more viewers to their Web sites.”

Cable network that buys “Two and a Half Men” reruns will get similar Internet rights for its package of reruns. Depending on the deal, runs of “Two and a Half Men” could start on a cable net by 2010.

Warner Bros. TV Group prexy Bruce Rosenblum said his studio hopes to package Internet rights for other shows going into syndication or cable repeats going forward.

Studio is committed to preventing any other Internet distributors from streaming episodes of “Two and a Half Men” that are in syndication. However, it retains rights to sell permanent downloads through iTunes or other online stores.

It’s unclear, of course, how much demand there will be to watch repeats of a sitcom online the week after it airs. Local stations may have a tough time valuing this extra component, since it has never been tried before.

One station exec said he’s open to trying anything as a test, but doesn’t yet have a grasp on what business model might work best.

“What we’re saying is, let’s figure out ways to drive traffic to each others’ businesses,” said the exec, who declined to be named because his company hadn’t yet been pitched the Warner Bros. plan.

Also up in the air: Warner Bros. still has to work out a deal with the talent guilds before the streaming episodes go online.

WBTD’s “Two and a Half Men” plan comes as the broadcast networks also talk with local stations about streaming programming on their Web sites. ABC is testing such a plan with five affils, while Fox’s recent revenue-sharing pact with affils may include the possibility of sharing skeins with station sites (Daily Variety, April 17).

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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