'The Mentalist' sold into syndication at TNT


Patrick Jane should have a good feel about this: CBS' sophomore drama "The Mentalist" has netted a rich off-network syndication deal with TNT.

TV studios should feel good too. The off-network syndication market is heating up again, with two young dramas, "Mentalist" and another CBS procedural, "NCIS: Los Angeles," on Thursday selling for more than $2 million an episode after healthy bidding.

According to the pact between TNT and Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution, "Mentalist" will begin running weekly on the cable network in fall 2011, followed by a full-blown launch in 2012.

Neither side would discuss the financials of the deal, but the Simon Baker starrer is said to have fetched from $2.2 million-$2.3 million an episode.

"The demand for the off-network rights (to 'Mentalist') began almost immediately following its debut on CBS last fall and has steadily increased as the show blossomed into a true broadcast hit," WBDTD president Ken Werner said.

"Mentalist" launched as the top new series of the 2008-09 season and has been a solid ratings performer this fall in its new 10 p.m. Thursday slot.

"The early success of the series indicates 'The Mentalist' has a great future," Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin said.

The economic downturn and a glut of procedurals have pushed down off-network prices from the heights of late 2004, when Spike TV shelled out a record $1.9 million an episode for CBS' "CSI: NY." That was followed by the USA Network/Bravo pact for "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" for nearly $2 million an episode and the current record-holder, A&E's deal for "The Sopranos," valued at $2.5 million an episode.

Although "Mentalist" and "NCIS: LA," whose sale prices are said to be in the same range, couldn't match the New Jersey mobsters' loot, they still posted a record for a broadcast series' off-network sale.

By comparison, another solidly performing CBS procedural, "Criminal Minds," was sold to A&E and Ion last year for a combined license fee of about $850,000 an episode.

On TNT, a corporate sibling of the show's producer Warner Bros. TV, "Mentalist" will join a slate of off-network procedurals that includes "Law & Order," "Bones" and fellow CBS series "Without a Trace," "Cold Case" and "Numbers."

Created by Bruno Heller, "Mentalist" stars Baker as an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation who solves crimes using razor-sharp observation skills.

With its light tone and quirky central character, "Mentalist" had been considered a good fit for USA, which is said to have been interested but ultimately went aggressively after "NCIS: LA" to complete its "NCIS" off-network franchise. "Mentalist" also might have been considered too similar to USA's original series "Psych."

TNT has been an active buyer lately, also acquiring the WBTV-produced cop drama "Southland" after it was canceled by NBC.
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