EXCLUSIVE UPDATED 11 AM: I’ve learned that TBS and MTV will share the basic cable syndication rights to Fox comedy New Girl in a five-year deal with Twentieth Television. The comedy starring Zooey Deschanel will make its cable debut in fall 2015 and will air on TBS and MTV weekdays for the following five years. Noone is discussing price, but I hear the combined license fee paid by TBS and MTV is in the neighborhood, and likely a little lower than the $700,000 per episode FX shelled out for Mike & Molly two years ago. (Industry types estimate that TBS and MTV each paid about $300,000-$400,000). The records for off-network sitcom sales were set by The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls, which both sold to TBS for $1.5 and $1.7 million per episode, respectively. Still, industry insiders give Twentieth props for being able to make what they call “a very good deal.” That is because New Girl had already been sold to Netflix in a lucrative streaming deal, said to be worth as much as $900,000 per episode. Many cable networks frown upon sharing a series with Netflix or another streaming service, so it was unclear whether the studio could find a buyer. (Mike & Molly, Big Bang and 2 Broke Girls sold with cable and SVOD exclusivity). All in all, I hear the per-episode fee that Twentieth has been able to secure, including streaming, is north of $1 million and possibly as high as $1.4-$1.6 million.
Created by Liz Meriwether and produced by Chernin Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox TV, New Girl was a breakout hit, starting off as one of the biggest comedies in years. Its live+same day ratings have softened since, but the show remains Fox’s highest-rated comedy and is a top draw in time-shifted viewing and among the younger viewers coveted by advertisers.
That proved key for the off-network sale of New Girl, said Steve MacDonald, EVP of Cable Sales, Twentieth Television. The ratings strength in Live+7 viewing, the currency used by buyers, “shows you the size and substance of a brand,” he said. With their different demo targets, 12-34 for MTV and 18-34 and 18-49 for TBS, “we had a situation in which two totally different networks lined up incredibly well with very little duplication,” MacDonald added. With its theme, a coming-of-age comedy about a girl out of college finding her way with the help of her friends, he feels New Girls would mesh well with MTV original scripted series like comedy Awkward. At TBS, New Girl would be a good demo fit for the network’s early fringe sitcoms, Friends and Seinfeld, and it also is considered a solid potential companion for 2 Broke Girls in primetime. Like New Girl, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, which TBS acquired in 2012 in a blockbuster deal, also will be available in fall 2015.
New Girl’s fourth season premieres on Fox on September 16. Twentieth TV introduced New Girl and fellow 20th TV-produced comedy, Last Man Standing, at NATPE and recently shopped the Fox series, landing the joint deal with TBS and MTV. Last Man is expected to be taken out next.