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Rehabilitating NYPD Blue

NYPD Blue's off-net episodes are on the open market but, with iffy ratings on FX, may not be able to demand good money from other cable targets.

Things may be looking up, though. Executive Producer and co-owner Steven Bochco could be underestimating his show's firepower, and insiders say he could land more than the $700,000 per episode he said the repeats were worth in his lawsuit, settled April 6, against 20th Century Fox.

In the suit, Bochco claimed Fox and its News Corp. syndication division Twentieth Television struck a sweetheart deal in 1995 when it sold the show to sister cable network FX for $400,000. NYPD Blue can now be bought by another network for air next fall.

Competition might help. Trying to re-brand itself as a mainstream network, Viacom's TNN is a suddenly hungry off-net buyer, plunking down $1.5 million for the off-net run of CSI: Crime Scene Investigations. As a new aggressive series player, TNN has sparked a bidding war among rival networks that could help Bochco make out nicely.

Bravo, for instance, got The West Wing for $1.2 million, USA took Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for $1.4 million, and Columbia TriStar Television Distribution expects more than $1 million for Dawson's Creek.

"With TNN, there have been a few monkey wrenches thrown in," says one cable insider, noting that a high price for NYPD Blue
is not guaranteed. For first quarter 2001, the show averaged a 0.5 household rating for FX, below most of its basic cable drama competitors, such USA's JAG (2.5) or A&E's Law & Order (1.8).

Although sources say TNN will pass on the show, Turner Networks is apparently on the hunt for a new hour, and NYPD Blue could fill the bill. Court TV is in the running for it, says a spokesperson.

are fresher than NYPD Blue and, arguably, worth more. But TN Media Vice President Stacey Lynn Koerner insists NYPD Blue "is a tried and true property," noting its consistent top-25 ranking on ABC after seven years on the air.

USA and Turner had no comments at press time. FX still could make an offer, but legal constraints keep the network and Fox from detailing their game plan. Also, neither Bochco nor his attorneys were commenting.