2ND UPDATE 9:00 PM: Informed sources now tell me the off-network TV rights to The Big Bang Theory went for a record even bigger than first thought: $2+M per episode. The breakdown is TBS paying over $1.5M and Fox broadcast stations over $500K. What a huge haul for Warner Bros Domestic TV Distribution.
UPDATE 5:00 PM: I’ve just learned that The Big Bang Theory‘s off-network syndication rights sold for a record $1.5 million an episode. (Warner Bros will not confirm this figure.) That shatters the previous record of $1M for a sitcom cable sale fetched by Seinfeld in its first deal with TBS. Last night, bidding was fierce until the bitter end: TBS vs FX on the cable net side, and Fox vs Tribune on the broadcast stations side. USA never tossed its hat into the ring despite saying privately it intended to go after the top-rated sitcom in a big way. And, surprisingly, Viacom’s MTV did enter the fray (not, as expected, Comedy Central) — but stopped bidding shy of $1M an episode.
12 PM: Fall 2011 is when Warner Bros’ The Big Bang Theory will hit TV syndication as a weekday strip on both TBS and Fox Television Stations simultaneously in what I’ve learned is a record-setting sale. (UPDATE: The Warner Bros Domestic Television Distribution news release is below.) Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva already reported that the sitcom was headed to TBS ( Syndication Bids In For ‘Big Bang Theory’) and that the cable net would share the show with broadcast stations.
The Fox-owned stations have acquired the exclusive off-network broadcast television rights in the following 10 markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, DC, Houston, Phoenix, Miami Minneapolis, Orlando and Baltimore. I heard that the other broadcast bidder, Tribune, which plays the other big Chuck Lorre Productions’ sitcom Two and a Half Men along with FX, lost the fierce bidding war for Big Bang Theory. And, in a sour grapes move, Tribune immediately spun the trades that it had “passed” on the top-rated series. Which isn’t true. “Tribune did not pass and did not drop out,” one of my insiders confirms.
Off-network bids for Big Bang Theory were due at Warner Bros at 9 AM PT on May 11th. Bidders knew that, “Holy shit, this was something special,” an insider told me. “The marketplace kept getting more and more excited about it.” And why not since 2009-2010 ratings went through the roof for the laugher, the first time in two decades that a 9:30 PM show became the No. 1 sitcom. The price was expected to pass the $1 million record for a sitcom cable sale fetched by Seinfeld in its first deal with TBS. This week, TBS, FX, USA, and Comedy Central all submitted their offers for Big Bang Theory, along with broadcasters Fox and Tribune. “It will be a shocker if TBS doesn’t land the show,” an insider told Andreeva back on May 11th. Besides being in the Time Warner family, TBS wanted Big Bang as a strong lead-in for the new Conan O’Brien talk show. I hear Warner Bros Domestic Television Distribution vowed to figure out how best the broadcasters and the cable nets could collaborate. And, in the end, “TBS and Fox made the most compelling economic program”.
1 PM UPDATE: Here’s the Warner Bros news release:
BURBANK, Calif. (May 15, 2010) – “The Big Bang Theory,” network television’s No. 1 comedy series among Adults 18–49 and Adults 25–54, is set for a multiplatform off-network syndication launch in fall 2011 on the Fox Television Stations and Turner Broadcasting’s TBS, through a strategic partnership with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. The joint announcement of the multiyear agreement for the highly acclaimed series was made by Ken Werner, President, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD); Frank Cicha, Senior Vice President of Programming, Fox Television Stations; and Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming, for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
The Fox-owned stations have acquired the exclusive off-network broadcast television rights in the following 10 markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Orlando and Baltimore.
Cicha stated: “When the top sitcom on television becomes available, you have to take it seriously from both a qualitative and competitive standpoint, which we did. We are confident that ‘The Big Bang Theory’ will strengthen our already powerful comedy blocks on the Fox-owned stations.”
On cable, TBS will be the exclusive provider of off-network episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” and will also commence airing the series in fall 2011 as a weekday strip.
TBS’s Wright added: “‘The Big Bang Theory’ is simply one of the best comedies to come out in a very long time. With endearing characters and writing that is as consistent as it is funny, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is already a tremendous hit among young adult viewers, making it an ideal fit for TBS’s lineup.”
Werner said: “‘The Big Bang Theory’ presents an increasingly rare proposition for broadcast stations and cable services: the chance to acquire a traditional, multi-camera, A-tier comedy that is still expanding its audience on network television and which is poised for continued growth in future seasons, making it an asset that will only increase in value for Fox and TBS for years to come. A-tier sitcoms are a very rare breed that only come along once in a television generation. Past generations have each had their examples: ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Friends,’ ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ and ‘Two and a Half Men’ have each transformed the performance of their broadcast and cable outlets. We are excited that our broadcast and cable partners have come together in a synergistic manner to embrace ‘The Big Bang Theory’ as this generation’s A-tier sitcom.”
Werner continued: “The demand for this show has been building steadily for more than a year. We couldn’t be more gratified by the reception that ‘Big Bang’ has received in the marketplace, and we have found the perfect launch partners in Fox and TBS, both of whom instantly realized the enormous potential value to be realized from this forward-thinking partnership. We look forward to presenting the show to stations throughout the rest of the country in the coming weeks.”
Created by Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men”) & Bill Prady (“Gilmore Girls”), “The Big Bang Theory” has exploded in popularity in the 2009–10 season – its third – on CBS (Mondays 9:30 p.m. ET/PT), ranking as CBS’ number one scripted series among Adults 18–49 and Adults 25–54. “Big Bang” is also television’s No. 1 comedy among both Women and Men 18–49, as well as Women and Men 25–54. Additionally, “The Big Bang Theory” repeats rank as the number three sitcom in all of network TV, behind only its original telecasts and Warner Bros. Television’s “Two and a Half Men,” distributed off-network by WBDTD. “The Big Bang Theory” is the first comedy in at least 20 years to rank #1 show while broadcast at 9:30 p.m. “The Big Bang Theory” provides stations and cable channels with a mass-appeal, widely accessible program that repeats well and delivers a gender-balanced audience coveted by stations, cable services and advertisers. (Ratings Source: Nielsen Media Research, NTI Galaxy, Live + Same Day rating 9/21/09–5/9/10 plus repeats only ranker, excludes specials. Historical data prior to 1991 unavailable.)
For 2009, “The Big Bang Theory” received the Outstanding Achievement in Comedy honor at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Awards; the American Film Institute named the show as an official selection on its list of Television Programs of the Year; and series star Jim Parsons was nominated for an Emmy® Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and won the TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy. And the series won Favorite TV Comedy at the 2010 People’s Choice Awards.
Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar star in “The Big Bang Theory.” Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady and Lee Aronsohn are the executive producers. The series is from Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc., in association with Warner Bros. Television.