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This story first appeared in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
THR has learned that Warner Bros. Television is preparing to shop lucrative rights to two hit CBS comedies: Mike & Molly beginning in 2014 and 2 Broke Girls the following year. What makes the pitch unorthodox is that Warners is simultaneously selling shows available in different years, and one — Broke Girls — has aired for only a single season (most shows wait until they get closer to 100 episodes).
Why? Thank Modern Family, the 20th Television-produced megahit that in 2010 became the first comedy sold into syndication (to USA Network) after its freshman outing (dramas The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-0 also made the leap). So Ken Werner, Warners’ president of domestic distribution, will fly coast to coast this month pitching broadcasters such as CBS and Tribune and cable networks including TBS, FX and USA on a unique package: Buyers can acquire one show or get both in a single mega-deal.
A Warners source insists the aggressive plan is in response to huge interest from cable networks after the ratings bonanza from two other WB shows: Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, both of which generate huge ratings in syndication. But replicating their success could be difficult. Critics carp that comedies with female central characters (Broke Girls stars Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs; Mike & Molly‘s leads are Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell) tend to draw lower ratings, especially in the lucrative 7-to-8 p.m. “primetime access” slot.
WB competitor Debmar-Mercury went so far as to run ads in the trade press recently to suggest buyers wait to evaluate Charlie Sheen in Anger Management, which will start a 10-episode test run June 28 on FX. Adding to Warners’ urgency, Mike & Molly executive producer Chuck Lorre is said to be expecting the studio’s sales staff to deliver the same results as for his Men and Big Bang. That means license fees and barter ad sales that total $5 million to $6 million an episode for a run of at least seven years and possibly nine (which could total more than $1 billion).
Sources say Warners’ pitch will point out that the raunchy comedy of Broke Girls appeals to Men‘s male audience and McCarthy has a broad fan base thanks to Bridesmaids. Plus, CBS has slotted Broke Girls and Mike & Molly into the 9 p.m. hour on Mondays this fall, the slots where Men and Big Bang became huge hits (Men is joining Big Bang on Thursdays next season).
Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming at Katz Media, calls that scheduling the “Leslie Moonves seal of approval,” a reference to the CBS Corp. president and CEO’s string of comedy successes on that night. Broke Girls and Mike & Molly have delivered ratings, but will Warners’ move to cash in quickly pay off?
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