EXCLUSIVE: Tribune’s WGN America continues to aggressively build its programming slate under the new regime. On the heels of greenlighting its first two original drama series, the cable network has nabbed the off-network rights of Person Of Interest in a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution. This deal, which will see POI premiere on WGNA in fall 2015, marks the first time the network has purchased the exclusive cable window to a syndicated series. “Person of Interest is a fantastic show with a top notch creative team behind it, and we are excited to be the exclusive syndicated cable home for the show as we continue to transform WGN America into a destination for quality premium content,” said Matt Cherniss, President/GM, WGN America and Tribune Studios.
POI, which just started its third season on CBS, is the first high-profile network procedural drama to come down the pike in 2.5 years. Warner Bros. took its time with the well reviewed drama, waiting for the right time when more buyers were available. The company recently took POI out to multiple cable networks, with WGN being the most aggressive, landing the series for what I hear is a license fee in the $1.1-1.5 million range per episode. (The deal includes a carved out broadcast window.) While that is shy of the $2 million an episode commanded by such series as Warner Bros.’ The Mentalist and CBS’ NCIS: LA and Hawaii Five-0 at the height of the off-network market several years ago, those prices are a thing of the past as they led to several writedowns by cable networks who now put more and more emphasis on original series. But it is impossible to launch a cable network with originals alone. Popular off-network dramas are a key building block and tend to draw eyeballs the way NCIS repeats helped establish USA and Law & Order reruns put TNT on the map, a sentiment echoed by Ken Warner, president of WBTVD. “The new leadership of Tribune has made it clear they intend to transform WGN into a dominant player,” he said. “All top entertainment cable services have at their core a strong foundation of acquired content and distinctive original series. We are thrilled to contribute POI, a dominant off network hour to the mix of successful original shows they will launch.”
Related: ‘Person Of Interest’ At NY PaleyFest
Created by Jonathan Nolan and co-produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, Person Of Interest stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman, Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker. It is executive produced by Abrams, Nolan, Greg Plageman and Bryan Burk. Kathy Lingg is co-executive producer.