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Seinfeld doubles down

Stations that carry Seinfeld
in syndication will be offered a second run without an additional license fee from Columbia TriStar.

The development is big news if only because Seinfeld
is still the master of the off-net-syndication domain. This is the first time Columbia TriStar Television Distribution has ever offered second episodes of the blockbuster comedy. CTTD was surprising incumbent stations with the news starting Tuesday at its booth, just after Jerry Seinfeld got NATPE's Chairman's Award.

The deal lets stations get out of paying a license fee on the double run, with the stipulation that they share ad revenue with CTTD on a 3.5/3.5 barter split. Stations can start rolling out the additional episodes in fall 2001, and the spruced-up terms will be good for one year.

At this point, it's unclear what will happen beyond that year. Apparently, CTTD won't be forfeiting any money on the deal, because it pulled in record amounts of license fees on the show through its first two cycles: $2 billion.

During its initial sale to stations, a second-run option was never included, but because "stations have been asking for a second run forever," CTTD decided to grant them their wish, said a source close to the studio. "This will cause pandemonium at the booth." Other hit comedies, such as Friends
and Everybody Loves Raymond,
are said to have been padded with the double-run bonus in their first sales. Currently, Seinfeld
is offered on a cash-plus-barter basis Monday through Friday, with weekend episodes provided to stations on a straight barter basis.

In official CTTD developments, a revamped Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,
without Cybill Shepherd, will debut Feb. 1. The move had been expected since word leaked about the "audition" taping for new hosts.

CTTD programming chief Russ Krasnoff said that Shepherd "understood the business side of this," describing her exit as "an adult parting of the ways." But it will take five people to replace Shepherd on Mars/Venus,
which since its introduction has been plagued with cellar-dwelling syndicated household ratings (rarely rising above a 1.0), according Nielsen Media Research. Newcomers will be former Big Brother
resident love expert Dr. Drew Pinsky (formerly with MTV's Loveline); Christina Ferrare, author of the book Okay, So I Don't Have a Headache; Bo Griffin, a thirtyish, single Miami-based radio D.J.; Sam Phillips, a self-proclaimed party girl who hosts a radio show in Los Angeles; and Rondell Sheridan, a stand-up comedian on Fox's Show Me the Funny.

Also, CTTD unveiled a fall 2001 launch for Shipmates,
a dating strip-think Blind Date
goes sailing on a Carnival cruise ship-that has been expected to launch next season. No clearance info was revealed yet on Shipmates,
positioned as either a late-night or access strip, but CTTD is offering it on a 3.5/3.5 split.

Carnival is expected to pony up promotional money for Shipmates,
hosted by Brien Blakely (contributor to CTTD's BattleDome).

In other goings-on, CTTD chief Steve Mosko explained why the studio has benched, at least for now, its Donny Osmond-hosted game show Pyramid,
based on the classic $25,000 Pyramid

"When we make our final plans, we want to be in the right time periods," said Mosko, explaining the delay.