It gets a bit technical, but Warner Bros Television Group and ABC may have cracked the code to resolve one of the TV industry’s more vexing problems: How should program producers and networks split the rights to air TV shows as digital platforms become a bigger part of the distribution mix? They announced today a two-year deal that gives ABC broader and clearer opportunities to run WBTVG shows while they’re hot: ABC can include the shows in a TV Everywhere, subscription-based online feed of the network which the companies say is “currently under development.” The network also has right to make up to five recently aired episodes of current WBTVG programs — including The Middle, Work It, and Suburgatory — available via VOD as soon as the day after they first appear on TV. They can run on the network’s main Web sites, abc.com and Hulu, as well as an ABC-branded VOD service carried by traditional pay TV distributors. In return, WBTVG can begin syndicating series earlier than previous deals allowed: It can license serialized shows such as Gossip Girls that work well on subscription VOD services like Netflix at the end of the broadcast year in which the episodes first air. The studio also can begin syndicating sitcoms and procedural dramas to TV stations and cable networks after three years, down from four. Since WBTV is the largest independent TV producer, “this is kind of a turning point,” says EVP Craig Hunegs. “I don’t think there’s any turning back from this.” He adds that WBTVG is close to completing a similar, but longer, deal with a second network.
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