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Syndication Bodes Well For 'Minds' Spinoff

CBS’ upcoming Criminal Minds spinoff has plenty going for it prior to its midseason launch, and now you can add another sign the franchise has room to grow: the flagship’s ratings in syndication.

The spinoff, called Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and starring Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo, not only has its network flagship show to grow off of, but also CBS’ recent success in launching spinoffs of procedurals like CSI and NCIS.

And now this season, reruns of the original Criminal Minds, distributed by CBS Television Distribution, is the top-rated off-net weekend hour in syndication, averaging a 3.0 household rating season to date. The show also is syndication’s best among the key adult 25-54 demographic, leading the pack at a 1.5.

Criminal Minds began airing in broadcast syndication during the weekend of Sept. 11- 12, and it has stayed at the top of the charts ever since its premiere. The show, now in its sixth season on CBS (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET), has increased its rating 10% among adults 18-49 (4.5 vs. 4.1) this season so far; total viewers are up 9% (16.26 million vs. 14.91 million).

CTD’s other new entry to weekend off-net hours, Numb3rs, also is faring well, tying NBC Universal’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent for second place in the genre. Both shows are averaging a 2.2 household rating season to date. Among the key adult 25-54 demographic, Numb3rs is averaging a second-place 1.1, edging out L&O: CI by a tenth of a ratings point.

Numb3rs hasn’t fared as well as Criminal Minds in primetime, with CBS cancelling the show after last season, its sixth. Still, Numb3rs is turning in a strong performance in syndication and is broadly sold internationally.

Both shows replaced CTD’s leading off-net hours CSI: Miami and CSI: New York in the late-fringe hours of 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. The two shows’ contracts with TV stations ended in fall 2010, and both series went exclusively to cable. CSI: New York airs on TNT in primetime and Spike in daytime and access, while CSI: Miami now airs exclusively in daytime on A&E. In fact, A&E has used both CSI: Miami and Criminal Minds, which now airs on the network in primetime, to build its audience and launch new original series, such as last summer’s The Glades and other shows.

Besides A&E, which acquired Minds for approximately $650,000 an episode according to industry sources, the show also airs on Ion, which paid $175,000 per week to strip the show beginning in fall 2009. Numb3rs began airing on TNT in September 2009.

Even with the cable runs, audiences never seem to tire of strong crime procedurals. Replacing the two CSI spin-offs with two other crime dramas has made the transition relatively simple for TV stations. In the 2009 November sweeps, CSI: New York averaged a 3.3 in syndication, while CSI: Miami averaged a 2.2.

Criminal Minds and Numb3rs seamlessly replaced CSI: New York and CSI: Miami on stations’ weekend lineups,” says Joe DiSalvo, president of sales, CBS Television Distribution. “They have quickly turned into solid performers as the No. 1 and No. 2 off-net hours in syndication, proving that the viewers’ appetite for quality procedurals is still strong. We couldn’t be happier with their performances.”

In general, crime procedurals—whether they are off-broadcast or off-cable—dominate syndication’s weekend hours. NBC Universal’s off-USA Monk is ranked third with a 2.1 average rating, followed closely by TNT’s The Closer (distributed by Warner Bros.) and Twentieth’s Bones, tied for fourth at 2.0. Warner Bros.’ Without a Trace is ranked sixth with a 1.8.

The top-rated serialized show is Disney-ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, which shows up in a three-way tie for seventh place with NBC Universal’s House and Warner Bros.’ Cold Case at a 1.6. Twentieth’s off-CBS The Unit and off-USA BurnNotice are 10th and 11th at a 1.5 and 1.3, respectively.

Meanwhile, NBCU’s iconic Law & Order is joining its spin-off, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, in broadcast syndication next fall. The show has been sold in more than 80% of the country, reports Sean O’Boyle, NBCU executive VP of syndication sales.

This marks the first time Law & Order, which NBC canceled last May after 20 seasons, will air in broadcast syndication, although cable networks have built their schedules around it and its spin-offs for years. Repeats of Law & Order currently air on TNT.

Stations from the Fox, CBS, Cox, Gannett, Hearst and Sunbeam groups have picked up L&O; Fox-owned stations acquired it in the country’s top three markets.

“We’ve had success with the Law & Order franchise, both in syndication and as an important building block for MyNet,” says Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming for Fox Television Stations. “Acquiring ‘the mothership’ for weekends is a natural extension of this.”

“We have a lot of momentum with this brand in the marketplace, and I am excited for continued success with the flagship drama that started it all,” says Dick Wolf, the show’s creator and executive producer.

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