1:06pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
ABC Family Acquires 'The Middle' for Syndication
ABC Family has picked up syndication rights to ABC's Patricia Heaton comedy series The Middle.
The female- and youth-skewing cable network will air repeats of the comedy, from Warner Bros. Television, beginning in fall 2013.
Middle, currently wrapping up its third season, is up 3 percent year-over-year in total viewers and 8 percent in viewers 12-34, ABC Family's target demographic.
In its Wednesday time slot, Middle has been a constant winner for ABC, topping NBC's Whitney by 45 percent in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo and up 4 percent in total viewers. The series, co-starring Neil Flynn, also outperforms CBS' Survivor in the adults 18-34 and women 18-34 demos.
The series joins ABC Family as the cable network posted its best February yet, delivering its 13th consecutive year-over-year increase in the women 18-34 demo and its 12th consecutive month of year-over-year gains in total viewers 12-34 and women 12-34.
The syndication sale comes as it conservative star, Heaton, has been vocal about her stance on birth control, tweeting a series of harsh messages at Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, who was denied the right to testify before Congress and went on to become a target for Rush Limbaugh.
The actress later returned to Twitter after briefly deleting her account to offer an apology for the outburst, writing: "Tweatons: Finally heard all the commentary. I crossed the line w/@SandraFluke. Don't agree w/her views, but I was not showing Christ's love."
Meanwhile, Middle has sold in more than 92 percent of the country, to station groups including Tribune, Sinclair, CBS Communications Corp., Raycom, Belo and more.
“We are in a new golden age for sitcoms both on the broadcast networks and syndication,” said Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution president Ken Werner said in a statement. "Stations have been the bedrock destination for off-net sitcoms for generations and it is part of their heritage and brand. Our station partners recognized in The Middle a compelling player that would energize their sitcom blocks in 2013 and beyond."
The Middle airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.