In a pretty creative arrangement, FX and Lifetime will share off-network syndication rights to hit CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother beginning this fall. Lifetime landed the rights to the hit multi-camera comedy in 2008 for about $725,000 an episode. As part of a four-year deal, it started airing HIMYM this past fall. The exclusive window in the deal expires in September, and that’s when Lifetime will start sharing the series with FX. The split window is pretty inventive as there is virtually no audience overlap between the male-skewing FX and female-centric Lifetime. And the arrangement also solves problems for both networks.
FX has been looking hard for a companion to its off-network series Two and a Half Men. The cable network made a play for another CBS comedy from Men co-creator Chuck Lorre, The Big Bang Theory, but was outbid. As part of the same CBS comedy block as Men, HIMYM is probably the next most compatible comedy for Men after Big Bang. FX’s deal for HIMYM brings together two of the four highest-rated comedies currently on TV, both with great repeatability.
On the other hand, new Lifetime topper Nancy Dubuc has been looking to unload some of the hodgepodge mix of expensive off-network series that she inherited from the previous regime to free up financial resources for original programming. HIMYM has not performed well on Lifetime, which has been moving it around its schedule, trying unsuccessfully to find a good fit.
Sharing of an off-network series by two cable networks is extremely rare. I can’t think of any other examples on the comedy side, while in drama, CSI airs on Spike and USA Network. The 20th Century Fox TV-produced HIMYM, starring Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders, was recently renewed for two more seasons, its seventh and eighth.