Seinfeld sails into second

The most expensive and, at the same time, most profitable cycle of off-network television begins this week in syndication with the rollout of Seinfeld's second rerun effort.

The former NBC sitcom's second cycle starts nationally with a handful of new homes and new time periods, including new outlets in both New York and Los Angeles.

Seinfeld is expected to bring distributor Columbia TriStar Television Distribution more than $2 billion between its first and second cycle in off-net syndication, including advertising revenue. Starting this fall, stations will also be able to double-run the series for the first time. CTTD did not allow stations to air more than one episode per day during the show's initial syndication offering, which began in fall 1995.

In New York, Seinfeld is jumping from WPIX-TV to Fox-owned WNYW-TV, where it will air at 11 p.m. nightly. In Los Angeles, it's moving from KTLA-TV to Chris-Craft/Fox's KCOP-TV, which will air the series at 7 p.m. The show is also moving to WFXT-TV Boston, WJBK-TV Detroit and KMBC-TV Kansas City, Mo.

Seinfeld is cleared on local stations covering more than 99% of the country for its second effort, according to CTTD executives. Starting in fall 2002, cable's TBS will also get involved in the Seinfeld rerun business, airing episodes simultaneously with local stations on a nightly basis.

Seinfeld continues strong in the national ratings despite having been on off-network television for more than two years and in syndication for five. Season to date, it has averaged a 5.1 rating nationally and ranks second among all off-net series, trailing Friends, according to Nielsen Media Research. Seinfeld also ranks first among all syndicated shows (first-run and off-net) among males 18-49 and males 25-54. In comparison, Buena Vista's Home Improvement, which also debuted in fall 1995, is averaging a 2.4 rating this season.

The first week of episodes in the second cycle will start with the episode titled "The Pitch," in which Jerry Seinfeld accepts NBC's invitation to develop a series about nothing. Other premiere-week episodes include "The Ticket," "The Wallet" and "The Watch."