Fox Stations Add to ‘L&O’ Syndie Family

Apr 27, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Fox stations are returning to the crime-drama genre, inking a syndication deal with NBC Universal to air “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” Monday-Friday beginning in fall 2009. The deal follows on the Fox station group’s purchase of sister show “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” last fall.
The “Law & Order: SVU” procedural drama has been sold to Fox stations in the country’s top markets, including owned-and-operated outlets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Orlando and Baltimore. The series also has been sold in 18 of the nation’s top 20 markets, with stations from CBS, Sinclair, Sunbeam, Belo, Hearst and Granite groups buying in.
“We are a big believer in the hour business for syndication,” said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. “Stations that aired ‘Criminal Intent’ this season saw a return of the procedural drama to their Monday-through-Friday lineups and were very happy with the results. We look forward to continuing that trend with ‘SVU.’”
Ratings declines among long-running sitcoms such as “Seinfeld” and “Friends” in syndication and the shortage of new hit comedies coming down the pipeline have left stations searching for other weekday options. That has opened the door for crime dramas, and the Dick Wolf-produced “Law & Order” franchise has benefited from that demand.
Like “CI,” “SVU” was sold in syndication in a two-year 50/50 barter deal with stations, executives familiar with the matter said.
Meanwhile, NBC Universal is still mulling whether to bring “CI” back for another two-year run in syndication.
“The appetite continues to be there for these shows,” said Mr. Wallach. “Stations have already spent their time and effort building the brand in that time period, and they now get another 150 fresh episodes to give to viewers.”
“Law & Order: Criminal Intent” debuted in September, scoring an average 1.3 rating in its first month on the air and growing to a 1.5 through April.
“SVU,” meanwhile, made its syndication debut on weekends, and has since pushed its 2.2 premiere rating for September up to a 3.3 in April. The show scored a 3.7 during the February sweeps ratings period, which is used to set station ad prices.
In addition, the February sweeps saw “SVU’s” weekend syndicated runs boosting time-period ratings by more than 40% in both households and adults 25-54 year-over-year. Ratings rose more than 50% in women 25-54.
In the most recent February sweeps in New York, on WWOR-TV at 11 p.m. “CI” built on its local news lead-in with a 27% jump in household ratings and a 44% increase in women 25-54. The show also improved the time-period ratings by 27% in households, 80% in adults 25-54 and 86% in women 25-54.
Currently in its ninth season on NBC prime time, “Law & Order: SVU” continues to be one of the network’s top programs.


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