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Buena Vista Clears ‘Scrubs’ for 2006

Jun 27, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Two months after announcing it was making the Touchstone Television single-camera medical comedy “Scrubs” available for syndication starting in fall 2006, Buena Vista Television has cleared the show in 50 percent of the country and 18 of the top 20 TV markets.

In what is becoming a trend for solid yet hardly blockbuster sitcoms being sold into syndication, Buena Vista has cleared the show not on one major station group but on several. Depending on the top 20 market, “Scrubs” will appear on stations owned by Fox Television Stations, Tribune Broadcasting or the Viacom Television Stations Group.

Taking a market-by-market approach even with the top 20 worked well for Buena Vista, said Janice Marinelli, president of Buena Vista.

“You can sit back and really take the best deal in each market, and really make it work for the show and TV stations,” she said.

“Scrubs” will appear on Fox stations in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Washington and Houston, on Tribune stations in Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle, and on one of the two Viacom stations in Los Angeles. Other station groups also scored top 20 clearances. In San Francisco “Scrubs” will air on Cox Television’s independent KICU-TV and in Detroit on Granite Broadcasting Corp.’s The WB affiliate WDWB-TV.

The ability to tailor a sale in each major market allowed was mutually beneficial, Ms. Marinelli said.

“We went out and looked at the landscape on this show, and we had identified different needs on each station group,” she said. “Each station group got interested in the markets where they had the greatest need. Hopefully it’s a win-win for everyone.”

In addition to the fall 2006 syndication launch, Ms. Marinelli said Buena Vista is preparing to announce a concurrent basic cable deal for “Scrubs,” but declined to say which cable network will get the show.

In syndication, Buena Vista has made three-year barter deals with stations for “Scrubs” that include a four-minute/three-minute local-national ad time split as opposed to a more traditional five/two or 4%BD;-2%BD; split. The majority of clearances have been made in late fringe, which Ms. Marinelli said works towards the show’s demographic strength in adults 18 to 34, a demo she called “underserved in the late-night arena.”

Despite cable’s recent success of attracting young adult viewers during nighttime with shows like Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Ms. Marinelli said “Scrubs” will be able to draw adults 18 to 34 audiences back to broadcast stations.

“That’s the first place a viewer goes,” she said of the stations. “If the viewer is not satisfied, then they will go to cable.”

Buena Vista’s strategy for the show’s syndication sale worked, said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television Group.

“It’s a younger-skewing show that will be a good companion for other ensemble shows,” he said. “They correctly assessed the marketplace and put together a deal that is very palatable.”

The focus on late fringe also was a smart move, Mr. Carroll said.

“That makes the deal even easier for stations because the time parameters are broad enough to allow them flexibility,” he said. “Often deals in the past have time period parameters that include access. Realistically (“Scrubs”) is best positioned as a late-fringe vehicle.”

“Scrubs,” which premiered in October 2001 in the Tuesday 9:30 p.m. (ET) time slot on NBC, has been a consistent ratings performer for the network, even if it never has reached the breakout ratings status of a show like “Will & Grace.” In its second season “Scrubs” made the move to the highly prized Thursday night lineup, in the post-“Friends” 8:30 p.m. time slot, but had several time periods on multiple nights during the 2003-04 season.

In 2004-05 “Scrubs” initially suffered from its Tuesday 9:30 p.m. “Father of the Pride” lead-in time slot, but benefited once “Pride” was canceled and the reality hit “The Biggest Loser” served as its lead-in. “Scrubs” was renewed for a full season for 2005-06, but is delaying production to accommodate star Zach Braff’s burgeoning feature film career. It is expected to be back on NBC’s schedule for midseason. Buena Vista has said “Scrubs” will have a 112-episode syndication package.

Buena Vista will launch the comedy “My Wife and Kids” in syndication this fall, and has already sold the sitcom “According to Jim” for fall 2006. Other half-hours slated for fall 2006 launches include Twentieth Television’s “Still Standing” and “Family Guy” as well as Paramount’s “One on One.” In addition, The WB announced this week the Twentieth sitcom “Reba” will have a double run on its affiliates during the 4 p.m. weekday hour starting fall 2006.

Most of the sitcoms coming into syndication over the next few years can expect similar barter deals with major market clearances across various station groups, Mr. Carroll said.

“What syndicators have to look at are where the needs are and where the opportunities are,” he said, “and that often is not with a single station group, especially not in the largest markets. It usually is a quilt that is put together by a number of groups and their particular needs.”

The one show likely to hit syndication in fall 2006 that could buck the trend and secure a single major station group, Mr. Carroll said, is Warner Bros.’ “Two and a Half Men.” The CBS sitcom, which this fall is moving from 9:30 p.m. to take over the Monday 9 p.m. time slot previously held by “Everybody Loves Raymond,” has been a strong performer for CBS. It also has the potential of becoming the top sitcom in prime time among the advertiser-friendly 18 to 49 demographic. Just a few weeks ago CBS’s Monday night “Men” repeat marathon dominated the ratings, a sign that it could capture a strong audience next year and therefore increase its value once Warner Bros. takes the show out to stations.

“I expect a more traditional deal,” Mr. Carroll said of “Men.” “They have been lucky enough, even in this early going, to hold or build its ‘Raymond’ audience.”