'Roseanne' Implosion Ripples Overseas

Courtesy of ABC
'Roseanne'

International channels have dropped plans to air the sitcom following the star's racist tweet, and Disney has stopped selling the show worldwide.

Most of the world won’t have the chance to get offended by Roseanne.

As part of the comprehensive repercussions of Roseanne Barr’s tweet comparing former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape, Disney Media Distribution will not be licensing the sitcom revival to foreign networks and global streamers. The company had only just begun international sales for the series before the fateful May 29 tweet, which led to the immediate cancellation of TV’s No. 1 show by Disney subsidiary ABC.

Territories where deals already had closed quickly followed suit: Within 24 hours of ABC’s announcement, CBS Corp.-owned Australian broadcaster Network Ten pulled the show from its main network and youth-skewing digital channel Eleven. Spain’s Atresmedia dropped Roseanne from its pay TV network Neox. Canada’s CTV and parent Bell Media yanked reruns and scrubbed all evidence of the series from its digital platforms. Germany’s Disney Channel pulled reruns of the original series, which had been airing in primetime to build anticipation for the revival’s now-canceled August premiere.

But Disney’s foreign losses on Roseanne are relatively minor and short term. In an unusual deal, the company had a narrow one-year window during which to close international sales before the show’s rights reverted to producer Carsey-Werner. And having only a nine-episode season to sell would have made the revival hard to program and driven down its asking price to the low millions, compared with nine-figure foreign licensing fees for shows with proven track records like The Big Bang Theory.

Although the original Roseanne was very successful in Europe, its bigger and more lucrative markets, including Italy, France and the U.K., had yet to commit to the revival, with some fearing it would be too focused on U.S. politics. And despite the new season averaging more than 18 million viewers a week in the U.S., the overseas disappointments of domestic hits Empire and This Is Us have made many international buyers more cautious about jumping on the next big thing from the States.

Says one European buyer, “Buying American sitcoms is risky enough these days without having to worry about an online racist shitstorm.”