For syndicators, a successful sitcom is like the holy grail, with a top-seller raking in billions. This fall, with the broadcast networks having already introduced nine new comedies, distributors have their eyes on several new entries and are waiting to see if any show long-term promise.
Of the nine, only a few will be renewed and even fewer will make it to syndication. The rarest, but most desired, feat is to turn into the next Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men, two of syndication’s top all-time sitcom earners.
It’s early yet, but already some of the new sitcoms seem to be pulling ahead, raising hopes about which show will earn TV’s next big payday. Meanwhile, big expectations are greeting shows a little further along in the cycle—Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls and Mike &Molly—which have already been sold but have yet to premiere.
Three-time Emmy winner Modern Family heads to syndication next fall. The show was sold for approximately $1.4 million an episode to USA Network as well as to TV stations. Modern Family opened season four on Sept. 26, to a 5.5 rating among adults 18-49, making it easily TV’s top scripted show in the key demo. That can only feed the anticipation set to greet Modern Family’s syndication premiere next fall.
CBS’ 2 Broke Girls doesn’t hit syndication until 2015, but last spring, TBS paid a record-breaking $1.7 million an episode for it. In its new Monday 9 p.m. time slot, 2 Broke Girls is turning in a strong performance, averaging a 3.6 among adults 18-49. That makes it by far the highest-rated show of CBS’ Monday night, and the third-highest rated sitcom on television, behind Modern Family and Big Bang.
“CBS has pinned their hopes on 2 Broke Girls,” says Brad Adgate, senior VP at Horizon Media. “Monday at 9 p.m. is the showcase time period for premium CBS comedies, and the home of such shows as Two and a Half Men, Everybody Loves Raymond, Murphy Brown and M*A*S*H.”
Mike & Molly moved into a later slot this year, following 2 Broke Girls at 9:30 p.m. So far, the show is averaging a respectable 3.0. Mike & Molly sold for far less than 2 Broke Girls, and will open in syndication in 2014 on FX and broadcast stations.
Fox’s New Girl, in its second season, is also a likely candidate for syndication. Averaging a 2.8, New Girl is Fox’s Tuesdaynight standout.
Last week, Fox renewed fellow Tuesday night comedies Ben & Kate and The Mindy Project, even though The Mindy Project is averaging a 2.2 and Ben & Kate is averaging just a 1.8.
“Fox has created a very youthful liveaction comedy block,” says Adgate, noting that the median age for New Girl, The Mindy Project and Ben & Kate is 35 to 37, significantly lower than most primetime shows. “Those [Fox comedies] may not get the number of viewers that NCIS or The Voice gets, but [Tuesday] night has become a destination for younger viewers. Not a lot of younger viewers, but certainly younger viewers.”
NBC introduced four new sitcoms this fall, and so far the top-rated of those is Go On, at a 2.4. Two weeks ago, NBC gave Go On a full-season order, along with Revolution and The New Normal. While The New Normal is a critical favorite, it’s averaging a 1.9 in the demo, and coming in fourth in the time period.
Meanwhile, both NBC’s Animal Practice (monkey or no) and Guys with Kids are struggling, averaging a 1.4 and a 1.6, respectively.
CBS and ABC each have only premiered one new sitcom so far: CBS’ Partners and ABC’s The Neighbors. Neither show was received well by critics, and at 2.2 and 1.9 in 18-49 ratings respectively, neither is setting the world on fire. ABC has ordered three additional scripts for The Neighbors, while Partners, currently the weakest link in CBS’ Monday lineup, is not expected to be picked up. ABC will launch one more sitcom, the Reba McIntyre-starrer Malibu Country, on Nov. 2.
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.
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