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BVT Tests Hits With Syndicated Tire-Kickers

Following the lead of those Desperate Housewives, Buena Vista Television (BVT) is pulling a tease of its own to woo potential off-network cable buyers to its three biggest series.

It has recently approached female-skewing cable networks with deep pockets, possibly including Lifetime—50% owned by Disney—and Turner, with light, pre-sales presentations for Touchstone Television’s Housewives, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy.

A potential buyer calls the “tire-kicking” sessions, which have been devoid of a pitch or a price, BVT’s move to ignite a bidding war for the sophomore trio of hits, which are still attracting monster ratings on ABC.

Grey’s, which premiered last spring, is possibly the most valuable of the three to BVT, with a larger amount of closed-ended episodes that traditionally perform better in syndication than its more serialized Housewives and Lost companions.

ABC left the Sunday-night sex-and-surgery drama out of its iTunes deal with Apple.

By offering one less distribution window, Disney could be hoping to enhance the syndication value of a potentially lucrative series. On Feb. 14, the abbreviated first season of Grey’s will be released on DVD.

An all-out syndication sales blitz is expected to begin soon, with Housewives and Lost hitting stations as early as fall 2008, and Grey’s the following year.

Cable network windows traditionally come much earlier, with some networks willing to pay a premium in exchange for greater exclusivity.

Male-skewing crime dramas have been fetching $1 million-$2 million per episode (and a record $2.5 million for The Sopranos). There haven’t been any female-skewing series of this ratings caliber in recent years.