When Warner Bros. execs took “The Big Bang Theory” out for sale in spring 2010, they knew they had a giant hit on their hands.

Since the show premiered in 2007, the sitcom had grown from the 49th-ranked scripted series among viewers in primetime to No. 7 in total viewers, and it was the fifth-highest ranked series in the 18-49 demo. The studio’s job was just to prove the show’s syndie potential to buyers and secure the highest possible price.

That turned out to be no problem. In a competitive bidding war, Fox held off Tribune to win the offnet broadcast rights in May 2010 and TBS outbid several other bidders for the cable rights.

All told, Warner Bros. reportedly reaped $2.5 million an episode for the sitcom, which is in line with the paydays of other top syndie laffers, including WBTV staples “Two and Half Men” and “Friends,” Sony’s “Seinfeld,” and CBS Television Distribution’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

“Big Bang” premiered in syndication well, nabbing 6.7 million viewers in its first week. That debut marked the strongest off-net opening of any syndie since “Men,” but the show grew from there. Less than two months later, “Big Bang” had grown to 9.8 million viewers.

” ‘Big Bang’ has taken over from ‘Two and a Half Men’ as the new, dominant ‘A’ sitcom on television,” says Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros.’ Domestic Television Distribution. “The future looks incredibly bright for the show.”

“From the start, ‘Big Bang’ was improving time periods for us, but now it’s doubling the time period and we’re seeing some really great results from it,” says Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming for the Fox Television Stations.

TBS is also happy with the early performance of “Big Bang,” where it airs four days a week in various time periods. Since the skein’s cable premiere in September, it’s grown from nearly 1.5 million viewers to nearly 2.4 million viewers in the week ending Dec. 5, an improvement of almost 60%.

“?’Big Bang’ is ideal for a network like ours,” says TBS topper Michael Wright. “It has great reach and it amplifies that brand we are trying to craft and sell — a contemporary, smart and funny network.”

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