Cable competition makes busy weekend plans

Broadcast reruns adds to crowded syndie landscape in 2006-7

Although it’s not yet a raging love affair, cable and syndication’s courtship heats up when the NATPE convention is in the offing.

The off-Sci Fi Channel series “Stargate: SG-1” and “Stargate Atlantis,” distributed by Sony, play on many local stations on the weekends, as does Debmar Studios’ “Farscape,” now in syndication and previously on Sci Fi from 1999 to 2003.

Premiering in rerun this fall on the Tribune stations and others is Sony’s “The Shield,” the FX series that has garnered critical acclaim and an Emmy for lead Michael Chiklis.

The landscape for weekend TV syndication is so crowded in 2006-7, not only with cable action hours but with broadcast reruns such as “CSI: Miami” and “Without a Trace,” that Debmar has pulled back repeats of USA’s hit series “The Dead Zone” from this fall to fall 2007.

Debmar will begin preselling “Dead Zone” to get the best times on TV stations, a necessity because, like all the weekend repeats, the series depends on advertising; stations don’t pay license fees.

Poor ratings for “Dead Zone” due to weak time periods would damage Debmar’s hope of making decent profits on the show for producer Lionsgate, which hired Debmar to distribute it.

Sony has three other off-cable hours heading for TV syndication: “Strong Medicine,” which is ending its run on Lifetime, plus “Dead Like Me” and “Jeremiah,” both from Showtime.

While most shows from cable gravitate toward the weekend, two five-a-weekers have made an impact in syndication this season: “Sex and the City,” distributed by HBO, and Comedy Central’s “South Park,” another Debmar product.

Ruth Lee Leaycraft, VP and director of programming for Continental TV Sales, a division of the rep firm Katz Television, calls the Nielsen performance of “Sex and the City” in syndication a “noteworthy point of interest.”

Despite the fact that it has “primarily late-fringe clearances” (post-11 p.m.), “Sex and the City” “outperformed many traditional broadcast comedies” in the November sweep reports from Nielsen, according to Leaycraft.

Although not as strong as “Sex and the City,” she adds, the reruns of “South Park” have held their own compared with the ratings of the time periods a year ago. Because of its content, “South Park” runs exclusively latenight.

Syndicated TV shows also continue to migrate to cable. Oxygen strips two Warner Bros. talkshows, “Ellen” and “The Tyra Banks Show,” in latenight so they don’t conflict with the daytime and early-fringe runs of the shows in syndication.

And at 6 p.m. daily, TLC reruns each day’s episode of NBC Universal’s “Martha” yakker starring Martha Stewart, which TV stations strip in the morning.

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