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TBS Corners 'Office'

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has sold The Office to TBS starting this fall. The cable network will get two years of exclusivity before broadcast deals kick in.

The Fox Television Stations’ MyNetowrkTV affiliates will get the broadcast rights in fall 2009.

Turner was prepared to pay NBCU around $450,000 per episode for The Office if it was sold for a simultaneous cable-broadcast run, but it is thought to have raised the price to $750,000 per episode for the exclusive run.

The deal is similar to one several years ago that HBO Television Distribution made for Sex and the City.

In turn, the Fox MNT duopoly stations paid a bargain-basement price of $200,000 per week—or about $500,000 per episode—for 10 stations, according to multiple sources. One source claims it was closer to $300,000 per week.

In contrast, Warner Bros. garnered an estimated $600,000 per week from its launch group and $650,000-700,000 from Turner for comedy Two and a Half Men under a traditional deal in which stations get it first and cable gets it in the fourth year.

When barter and other stations are added to the mix, one industry source says The Office could be tracking at $3 million-$4 million per episode—though many claim that price is grossly inflated (and could more likely end up only north of $1.5 million per episode) since stations will be reluctant to pay much for a show that has already aired on cable.

Tribune had stayed out of the bidding, having told NBCU that it might consider getting involved in the fall after it saw how Men and Family Guy, its two new off-net sitcoms, perform. That helped keep the Fox price low, according to some sources.

And Comedy Central is said to have dropped out when Jon Stewart’s asking price to renew his show went through the roof, leaving Turner as the only major contender.

NBCU declined to comment on price, but the producers and other profit participants of The Office, including recently appointed NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios Co-Chairman Ben Silverman, were said to be unhappy over the way the sales process was handled—especially with millions of dollars on the line.

The Office, produced by Reveille and Universal Media Studios, will debut on the Fox duopoly stations in the nation's top markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Orlando, as well as the Fox station in Baltimore.