EXCLUSIVE: The breakout success of Roseanne on ABC in the U.S. is inevitably interesting a raft of international buyers but a complicated global rights situation may slow down lucrative sales, Deadline understands. One prominent European broadcast buyer told me that the situation was a “nightmare” for buyers hot on the sitcom revival.
This comes after the premiere drew a massive audience earlier this week; the first two episodes secured 18.2M viewers and a 5.2 rating in adults 18-49, numbers not seen on broadcast TV in some time.
As I understand it, Disney Media Distribution, the international sales arm of the Hollywood studio, secured a first-window to close global sales deals on the comedy as a result of the show airing on Disney’s ABC. However, the distribution division, which is led outside of North America by the recently promoted sales chief Mark Endemaño, only has a one-year arrangement before the rights revert back to producer Carsey-Werner and its own sales division Carsey-Werner Distribution.
Disney confirmed to Deadline that it “has international distribution rights, for a one year term from U.S. broadcast”.
The deal is unusual in a number of ways; it’s very rare for a company the size of Carsey-Werner to retain international rights to such a high-profile broadcast series. However, the sitcom hit factory, which is led by Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club Chairman Tom Werner, had historically retained the rights to the classic sitcom, fronted by Roseanne Barr and John Goodman and was integral to its return, rather than just being on board as a legacy executive producer credit. It’s also rare that international distribution would be shared between the sales division of a major Hollywood studio and the international arm of a producer.
It’s this arrangement that may mean Roseanne does not make it out to international territories as fast as one would imagine given its domestic success. I spoke to a number of international buyers, who highlighted that the show had not been screened at last year’s LA Screenings or at Disney’s February screenings event in London. They also noted that when they made enquiries about the show, they were told it may not be as straightforward as other deals, particularly as it appears that it is heading for a second season pick-up. However, despite this, both Disney and Carsey-Werner have told buyers that the tricky situation doesn’t preclude licensing for the “usual terms”.
Many major UK and European broadcasters are still keen to discuss. The show aired on Channel 4 in the UK in the 1990s in a primetime slot and the reboot would certainly fit alongside its tranche of U.S. acquisitions on E4 such as The Big Bang Theory and spin-off Young Sheldon. Given the scarcity of imported family sitcoms, it will also attract the interest of the likes of Sky, and Viacom’s Channel 5, which recently found success with Will and Grace, in the UK, which is one of the most lucrative markets for international shows.
In Europe, where U.S. comedies and dramas often still air in primetime, the show is also gaining attention from terrestrial linear broadcasters, particularly in markets such as Germany, where the original was hugely popular, and in Scandinavia. However, don’t discount the SVODs; Amazon just closed its first Europe-wide deal with Disney for The Crossing and Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, and even Netflix, which despite its recent streaming rivalry with Disney, has, in the past taken shows such as Once Upon A Time.
The rights may be complicated, but as broad-based hits become rarer and rarer, Roseanne is likely to find its way out of America soon enough.