Skip to main content

WGN, Lifetime Snare Shields Sitcom

WGN snared reruns of Suddenly Susan as a cable
exclusive for three years starting in 2000, while Lifetime Television will pick up the
sitcom afterward, officials said last week.

WGN and Tribune Broadcasting Co. closed a deal with Warner
Bros. Domestic Television Distribution for Suddenly Susan, the NBC show starring
Brooke Shields, in its first cycle of off-network syndication. As part of that agreement,
WGN will have the initial cable rights to the show, and it plans to air it five days a
week for its 44 million subscribers. Tribune is reportedly paying $600,000 per episode for
the show.

Derk Tenzythoff, vice president of programming services for
UVTV, the network provider that delivers and markets the superstation, expects Suddenly
to perform strongly in the ratings because WGN has the show "from day
one" in syndication.

"This is a big coup for us, particularly getting it in
the first cycle of syndication," he said.

WGN will share the first-cycle window with 16 of
Tribune's broadcast-TV stations.

Also last week, Lifetime closed a deal for cable rights to Suddenly
after WGN's agreement expires, in the fall of 2003. At that time, the cable
window will shift to Lifetime, which plans to strip the sitcom Monday through Friday. The
women's network, like WGN, will share its syndication window with TV stations, as it
has done in the past with Designing Women, according to Lifetime president Doug
McCormick. Lifetime is reportedly paying just over $200,000 an episode for Suddenly

While the show's ratings have only been lukewarm,
McCormick said, Suddenly Susan fits perfectly into Lifetime's programming
portfolio, which includes off-network sitcoms, as well as two new original comedies that
are debuting this summer.

"It's a good show, and it's had sitcom
success," McCormick said. "And we want to get some name brands."

This is believed to be the first time that a superstation
will launch such a pricey off-network show in its initial broadcast-syndication run. The
glutted off-network sitcom market has given the stations a leg up in their negotiations
with syndicators.