In Depth

‘Office,’ ‘L&O: SVU’ Headed to Fall ‘09

Off-network syndication offerings for 2009 are slim, but with syndicators and stations concerned about the tough economy, the segment’s importance will grow considerably in the next couple of seasons.

Along with being the network’s top-rated show, NBC Universal’s “The Office” makes its way to broadcast syndication in fall 2009, where it’s already sold in at least 90% of the country. The show already airs on TBS.

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“‘The Office’ is going to be the biggie for next year,” said Chuck Larsen, president of October Moon Television, an independent consulting company.

Also debuting from NBCU’s stable as a daily strip is “Law & Order: SVU,” which now airs in repeats on USA.

With the strength “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” has showed in a daily format, “SVU” should do well considering that it’s a stronger series to begin with, Mr. Larsen said. “SVU” also is cleared in more than 90% of the U.S.

Other series prepping for 2009 are “My Name Is Earl” from Twentieth Television and “Everybody Hates Chris” from CBS Domestic Television.

“Chris” has been sold in cable to Nick at Nite and is expected to perform well in more urban markets, said Bill Carroll, VP/director of programming at Katz Television Group.

Smaller distributors also are prepping shows, as Trifecta Entertainment & Media is offering MTV’s “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” as a daily strip, along with A&E’s “Cold Case Files.”

In the weekend-only category, “Bones” from Twentieth TV and “Grey’s Anatomy” from Disney-ABC are two of the major offerings moving into broadcast syndication next fall.

CBS TV Distribution’s “Ghost Whisperer” and “Medium” are entering cable runs in 2009, with “Whisperer” airing on WE TV, Ion Television and Sci Fi. “Medium” is exclusive to Lifetime.

Despite the limited number of offerings in 2009, off-net is expected to grow in popularity as stations need to fill programming hours as cost-effectively as possible.

Cash-strapped station groups and syndicators looking to avoid taking losses on original content might even allow off-net programming to migrate back into daytime, Mr. Larsen said.

Syndicators remain hesitant to bring first-run material to the marketplace in the midst of an incredibly turbulent economy, while off-net programming is already produced and available.

The shows come with a built-in fan base and involve mainly barter, as opposed to cash, making them attractive to cost-conscious programmers, Mr. Carroll said.

“In essence, it’s the perfect combination,” he said.

The lineup for 2010 appears to be a little more robust than the coming year’s, as CBS brings “Numb3rs” and “Criminal Minds” into the marketplace in an attempt to swap out “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY,” which will exit syndication at that time. In daily strips, Twentieth is readying sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”