Tales of Cable Off-Net Syndication: USA Has Fared Well with NCIS, But TNT Lost Millions on Without a Trace

Categories: 1-Featured,Cable TV

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February 13th, 2010

I meant to write about this last week after Time Warner's earnings report.  There were a few stories about  the huge loss TNT took on Without a Trace.   I wound up forgetting all about it, but fortunately our friends at Broadcasting & Cable keep pounding the drum.  Page Albiniak writes:

Tucked away in Time Warner's fourth-quarter 2009 financial report was the tidbit that TNT took a $104 million writedown on its acquisition of the Warner Bros.-produced drama Without a Trace. And while deals between TNT and WB essentially move cash from one Time Warner pocket to another, it serves as a cautionary tale as cable networks lay out increasingly major dollars for off-net programming.

Trace aired on CBS from September 2002 through May 2009, and on TNT from 2004 until last December. TNT paid approximately $1.4 million an episode for the program—for a total of about $225 million—but the show never performed at expected ratings levels. When CBS decided to cancel Trace last spring, it was already playing in lesser-watched late-night slots on TNT. Writing down the show lets TNT take it off its air, and allows Warner Bros., which made money on the show, to sell it somewhere else.

The article goes into some details about A&E losing money on the Sopranos (for which it paid $2.5 million per episode) and ultimately had to take a write-down.  It also highlights the success of NCIS, which USA paid a mere 750,000 an episode.  But they'll make it up on NCIS: Los Angeles where USA has reportedly paid $2 million; and TNT picked up the rights to The Mentalist for $2 million per episode.

Click over to read the full story and find out how much USA paid for Law & Order: Criminal Intent and how much Spike paid for CSI.

 
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