From Yahoo.comFrog leaps for syndication revenues (angel mention)
By John Dempsey
Monday 27 September 2004, by Webmaster
The WB Network and ABC Family are locked in a blazing love affair, despite the fact that their parent companies are barely on speaking terms.
Showbiz synergy is supposed to take place within corporations, but ABC Family, owned by Disney, will kick off its new season on Oct. 4 by stacking up reruns of three series from the WB, owned by Time Warner, in key time periods every evening.
The three shows are "Gilmore Girls" at 5, "7th Heaven" at 6 and "Smallville" at 7. Original episodes of each of the three series continue to run on the WB’s primetime schedule.
Tom Zappala, VP of acquisitions and scheduling for ABC Family, says no one should be surprised that ABC Family is buddying up to the WB.
"Our audience composition is compatible with the WB’s," he says. "These shows make a nice fit for the 12 to 34-year-olds we try to reach on a regular basis."
The content of the WB’s shows stays strictly within the bounds of good taste — a requirement for ABC Family — because the Tribune stations insist on it. Tribune Broadcasting owns 25% of the WB and gives the network bellwether clearances in two dozen big markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas and Houston.
The WB may be less than a decade old as a broadcast network, but it has taken on the role of magnet for cable networks seeking programs that will draw more young women into their wired tent.
TNT, for example, paid through both nostrils to get Paramount TV’s "Charmed" ($715,000 an episode, including the fee to repurpose each original within the same week). But since October 2001, when "Charmed" reruns premiered on TNT, the show has performed better than any other off-network series on the network except the unstoppable "Law & Order."
"Charmed" plays on TNT weekdays at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and each new weekly episode runs every Tuesday at 10 p.m., two days after its WB airing.
TNT also schedules "Angel," the spinoff of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," every weekday at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. "Angel" is pulling more viewers in reruns than "Buffy," which started on FX in October 2001. The teenage heroine brought more young women to FX than most of its other non-primetime shows, but "Buffy" proved something of a disappointment to the network. And it did even worse in weekend barter syndication, where it played simultaneously with its FX run.
"Buffy" generated big license fees, however. Profit participants in most of these WB shows are glowing with well-tended affluence, giving Garth Ancier, chairman of the WB, what he hopes is "a leg up" on getting talent agents to funnel their select clients to Ancier and his programming staff.
Ancier’s message to the creative community is that if a WB series doesn’t find an audience right way, "we’ll tend to leave the show alone, giving the producers time to fix it and the audience time to find it. ’7th Heaven’ was not a hit in its first season. But we stuck with it and now it’s going into its ninth season."
Distributors of off-WB shows also use one of the network’s weaknesses — that its clearance falls far short of that of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — as a selling point to cable buyers.
"The WB’s shows are not overexposed to a general female viewership," says Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz TV, a firm that helps hundred of TV station clients make program decisions.
The reason that such reruns as "Charmed" and "7th Heaven" have performed well in cable, Carroll says, is that while young women continue to seek them out, women in their 30s and 40s who never watch the WB have discovered the shows on TNT and ABC Family.
Before it found its way to ABC Family, the Tribune group and other stations persuaded Worldvision, then the distributor, to sell "7th Heaven" into five-a-week syndication for two years. Lo and behold, says Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming for rep firm Petry Media Corp., the show "was a huge success."
Because only sitcom reruns are supposed to chalk up lots of viewers in strip TV syndication, she says, the winning Nielsens racked up by "7th Heaven" "were a shock to just about everybody."
Losak says what "7th Heaven" proved is that "a female-oriented dramatic series was exactly what syndication audiences were craving."
But, to Losak’s dismay, ABC Family also saw the numbers "7th Heaven" was harvesting in syndication, and offered Paramount (which had swallowed Worldvision in a merger) a pre-emptive bid to land exclusive rights to the series.
Not wanting to see the strip-syndication experiment repeated, ABC Family also engineered an exclusive deal for "Gilmore Girls."
Warner Bros., the distributor, said yes to the Family offer, which was lucrative and monumentally easy: One-stop shopping in an air-conditioned Burbank office, a far cry from the misery of trudging market by market to peddle a series to individual TV stations in strip syndication.
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