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Producing for Producers

On the heels of some highly publicized lawsuits over profits, such as with high-grossing comedy Home Improvement, producers are increasingly seeking out experts to help broker syndication deals. As a result, Chuck Larsen, a former distribution president of MTM Enterprises and Republic Pictures, has built a thriving operation representing series producers. Larsen formed October Moon Television and Consulting in 1997, and it's the only major company in the producer-representation field. October Moon has consulted on off-net sales totaling more than $5 billion.

While unwilling to reveal his client list, Larsen confirms that he was involved in some major recent sales. That includes six of the 10 highest-rated network series this year and two of the three top-grossing sitcoms ever—sometimes working through two or more syndication cycles. He has six specialists covering domestic and international sales, barter, ratings and marketing to handle the growing demand for producer reps, who previously were mostly focused on feature-film packages. October Moon also handles direct-syndication sales, including The Real World, Road Rules and That's Funny, and is developing first-run shows for fall 2007. B&C's Jim Benson spoke to Larsen about the increasing role of producer reps.

How do you describe your work?

It's similar to the [Security By…] sign you have in front of your house. It basically alerts everyone that you have someone protecting your property and rights. And there is a knowledgeable individual watching over your property, which is a deterrent to any adverse actions.

How involved are you in the sales process?

October Moon works with the studio distribution divisions, with the mutual goal of selling the series as well as possible. It's not that we're smarter, but we can focus on one program at a time. A secondary goal as a producer's rep is to assure the fair share of revenue to the profit participants. We work behind the scenes with the studios and have had a positive effect on the sales of a number of very valuable series.

Where do you see syndication headed?

Everybody has preached about this being the end of syndication, yet there are millions and millions of dollars at stake every year in the business—and it will continue to be that way for the foreseeable future. The big concern is selling as much as possible and getting a fair share.

What about the off-network sector?

There is going to be a greater opportunity for off-network program sales as we enter the digital era, where local TV stations will be programming multiple channels. While this will cause a greater demand for programming, acquisition budgets will lessen due to audience fragmentation. The upside is that there will be more shelf space.

If we can produce quality programming at a reasonable price, this will be a tremendous era over the next half dozen years.

Is that why you're getting into first-run development?

With the consolidation in the industry, there are far too few companies willing to develop programming for syndication. The time periods are there for the right programs.