WB greases way for Sunday multiplexing

May 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Repurposing on the sister Turner cable networks has been problematic early into The WB’s multiplexing experiment with TNT on “Charmed.” But the blueprint being put forward on “multiplay” reruns of series for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Sundays on The WB is drawing much less resistance and greater interest from advertisers and studios.
In order to get the right to rerun new series in its Sunday block this fall, The WB has been offering up to $30,000 per run for each half-hour sitcom episode and $50,000 per run for each hour-long drama episode, according to Hollywood production sources. With two additional runs on Sundays during a 52-week season, a pair of repeats of hour-long dramas could translate to an additional $2.6 million a season going into a studio’s coffers.
Studio sources have indicated they are amenable to the additional license fee and revenue-sharing structures that The WB has floated in negotiations, particularly if it means first-year shows will get additional, unduplicated viewer sampling on broadcast television.
“We’re all for getting some of our new series some strong early sampling, even it means getting third and fourth plays on Sunday, but it may take some more money to get our more established shows into a multiplay configuration,” said a studio business affairs executive who requested anonymity.
However, locking down cable network replays for returning series has been a bit a more complicated for the studios and The WB. Studios have been reluctant to give up broadcast exclusivity and diminish the back-end syndication value of a series.
“The multiplexing conversations on alternative [cable] systems are ongoing-it is just one of those new ideas that has not been met with the positive outlook that we think it deserves on just about every front,” acknowledged Jed Petrick, president and chief operating officer of The WB. “The affiliates have concerns about sharing programming without exclusivity; the studios don’t know what it means on a long-term basis for the back-end; and the advertisers don’t seem to be willing to take the quality of the shows as they come on different distribution systems. If we can’t make a financially viable strategy, then we can’t go into it.”
The new repurposing run on The WB’s Sunday afternoon broadcast platform, which is being floated at 75 percent to 85 percent of what the network could charge in prime time, is being seen by advertisers as something closer to an apples-to-apples situation than cable reruns would be.
“It all depends on how they will price it, but I’m totally with the [Sunday] counterprogramming strategy to the NFL,” said a New York-based ad buyer who requested anonymity. “If the Sunday prime-time run of a show does a 4 rating [in females 12 to 34 or 18 to 34] and the Sunday afternoon follows with a 3 rating, they might have a deal. But if it does a 1 rating, they’d have something to revisit with buyers.”
Mr. Petrick said he has had queries from “two major ad agencies” about buying the entire two-hour block of Sunday repeats.