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Family Guy, Men Look for Big Payoff

Following Warner Bros.’ lead with Two and a Half Men, Twentieth Television is seeking a big payoff for off-network episodes of Family Guy, its racy animated hit with younger men.

Twentieth President Bob Cook says he expects to conclude the first major-market deals for the sitcom within a week or two. In officially rolling out the show for fall 2007, the initial Family Guy pitches have been tailored to Tribune and Fox, as well as CBS’ New York, Los Angeles and Chicago stations.

The syndicator will offer buyers links and the ability to sell ads around original Family Guy short subjects on its studio Web site. Warner Bros., in contrast, is allowing stations to repurpose entire episodes of Men on their own sites and keep half the inventory.

Digital currently accounts for a small percentage of overall station revenues, but that figure is expected to grow substantially over the years.

Warner Bros. announced its Web plan to stations prior to beginning the deal-making for its fall 2007 sales campaign around the top-rated network sitcom.

Negotiations for Men are expected to intensify this week with the Fox and Tribune stations as Warner Bros. seeks some unprecedented broadcast-deal terms.

One includes a demand to carve out an hour apiece for the first and second runs of Men reruns on the weekends, which would result in the show airing four times on Saturdays and Sundays, rather than once like other sitcoms.

And if stations aren’t willing to step up with big offers, Warner Bros. has left open the possibility that a cable buyer could grab Men first if it is willing to pay a premium price.

Some station groups are said to be considering alternative plans to beat the anticipated high license fees for both shows, including at least one that is looking to acquire the second-cycle rights to Sony Pictures Television’s King of Queens.

Twentieth will be watched closely to see if it ultimately sells Family Guy to its parent Fox station group. But Cook and Paul Franklin, executive VP/general sales manager, say the studio will be aggressive with the $500 million franchise, selling it to the highest bidder in each market.

The sales campaign for the adult animated series compares Family Guy with Twentieth’s The Simpsons and their ability to repeat well. The pitch goes two ways: using the program as a companion to stations that already have The Simpsons and as a competitor for those that face off against it.