By Josef Adalian
Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has cleared "The New Adventures of Old Christine" on stations reaching more than 70 percent of the country, including the Tribune stations in New York and Los Angeles.
The sales come just three weeks after WBDTD brought the Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy to the marketplace, and a month after Tribune snapped up WBDTD/HBO-distributed HBO comedies "Entourage" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for its station group.
WBDTD President Ken Werner said Friday that the latter two HBO half-hours have now gone on to build their clearance rates to 70 percent, adding a number of major station groups beyond Tribune.
It’s understood WBDTD has sold "Christine" to stations on a 2-5 national/local advertising split, with some cash involved as a license fee. "Entourage" and "Curb" were set up at most stations with a 3-4 national/local split.
All three shows will hit broadcast syndication in fall 2010. The HBO comedies make their cable syndication debut on Spike this January.
A cable deal for "Christine" is expected within the next few weeks.
In addition to the Tribune-owned stations in New York and LA, WBDTD set up "Christine" at Chicago’s Weigel-owned WCIU, which has a good track record launching comedies. The studio has also made deals with CBS Television Stations, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Fox Television Stations, Local TV, Hearst, Raycom Media, Meredith, ACME Television, Titan, Roberts Broadcasting, Gannett, Capitol Broadcasting, Grant and Cox Television.
As for "Curb" and "Entourage," in addition to the Tribune stations, WBDTD has also sold the series to CBS Television Stations, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Fox Television Stations, Local TV, Hearst, Raycom Media, Meredith, ACME Television, Titan, Roberts Broadcasting, Gannett, Capitol Broadcasting, Grant and Cox Television
“We are extremely gratified by the station community’s response to these three series,” Werner said. “Stations realize how incredibly important it is for them to maintain their historical position of providing quality off-network series to their viewers. ‘Christine,’ ‘Entourage’ and ‘Curb’ are distinctive, high-profile series that will continue to fortify the sitcom blocks local station viewers and their advertisers have counted on.”
The deals for "Christine" give stations the right to run the first five seasons of the show as a Monday-Friday strip, with two broadcasts per day. There’s also a weekend run consisting on two telecasts.
"Curb" and "Enthusiasm" have also been set up as daily strips, but with just a single run each day and one weekend broadcast.
Sinclair’s decision to pick up WBDTD’s three half-hours will no doubt raise some eyebrows in the local station community. The station group said in a recent government filing that it was "considering the options we have for programming" its MyNet stations once its deal with the network-syndie hybrid service expires after next season, according to a March 21 report by Mediapost.com.
Should MyNet go away, or Sinclair opt out of the service, it’s not hard to see Sinclair deciding to go with a primetime comedy strategy now that it’s locked up daily double runs of "Christine" and daily strip runs of "Curb" and "Entourage." Sinclair, of course, could decide to stick with MyNet, or adopt another strategy, but the purchase of the WBDTD packages does give it a backup plan if needed.
While "Curb" and "Entourage" might seem not-ready-for-primetime in local markets, Werner said said that stations have not expressed any concerns over content. HBO’s "Sex and the City" has aired on Tribune stations for several years now without a fuss.
"Christine," meanwhile, clearly fits in with Tribune’s broad-based comedies, including WBDTD’s own "Two and a Half Men." Its relatively low-key profile on CBS might also help it attract new viewers in syndication, Werner said, noting that Louis-Dreyfus is the kind of personality who stands out in syndication (see: "Seinfeld").
“An iconic personality like Julia Louis-Dreyfus cuts through the clutter and is a performer that stations and audiences embrace," he told TVWeek.
“When you look at the quality of the show, the demographic performance and the marketplace, everyone felt that this was a fair and reasonable deal that they wanted to participate in.”