Home Box Office found a syndicated buyer for its popular series Sex and the City
in Tribune Broadcasting, which will strip the show beginning in 2005.
Tribune's 26-owned stations will offer 94 episodes of the series, which chronicles the sexually charged lives of four single females in Manhattan.
Terms of the four-year deal were not disclosed, but HBO president of domestic television distribution Scott Carlin said the deal is a "typical" off-network deal structure, including a weekly cash licensing fee, plus 90 seconds of barter time.
move to syndication marks the second recent deal for racy cable fare: Comedy Central licensed South Park
to Denbar Studios for broadcast distribution in either 2004 or 2005.
Industry observers predicted that syndicated efforts for Sex
would be hampered by concerns over whether the show would translate well outside of pay cable, with most of the show's nudity and language removed to fit broadcast decency standards. But sources said that five minutes of each 27-minute had to be cut out to fit a standard broadcast 30-minute window, which would account for most of the unsuitable scenes.
Tribune executives believe the show — which ended the first part of its sixth and final season last night — will perform well in syndication.
"What's attractive to us is it's a great show that only 30% of the country has had the opportunity to see, but just about every one has heard about," said Tribune vice president of programming and development Marc Schacher, who added that the show would run during late fringe hours.
"We think we have a 70% sell factor that will be real curious about the show," he also said.
With Tribune stations only serving 35% of the U.S., Carlin said HBO will look to cut other syndication deals with basic-cable networks, although he would not disclose specific details. Sources said TBS Superstation and Oxygen are in the running, although representatives from both companies would not comment.
"We'll fill out the rest of the domestic free-TV households, which means there will most likely be a basic-cable deal as well," he said. "We're talking to the obvious people who would want a young adult comedy on their schedule."
Carlin said that the network's ability to successfully move Sex and the City
— as well as The Larry Sanders Show
several years ago — into the syndication market will help boost HBO's already prominent image among the creative community as a financially viable outlet for projects.
"It hard to imagine HBO being more attractive than it already is," he said. "This might be an occasional icing that is part of a show here and there. But not very show is going to lend itself to this type of off-HBO platforming."