May 8, 2006

“Men” reruns going online in pioneering deal

By Kimberly Nordyke

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The deal just got
sweeter for TV stations looking to buy rerun rights to the hit
Charlie Sheen comedy "Two and a Half Men," which is expected to
be a hot syndication property for fall 2007.

The show's producer, Warner Bros. Television Group, is set
to announce Monday a new business model that will give the
stations -- and the cable network -- that license the
off-network rights the right also to stream episodes on their
own Web sites. The plan is for the previous week's five aired
episodes to be streamed free and on-demand for viewers.

"No one has ever provided this before for local stations,"
said Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic
Television Distribution. "Everything until now has been through
the networks' Web sites."

Indeed, affiliates of the Big Four have been grumbling for
months about lost revenue from and a lack of communication
surrounding network deals that replanted programs on other

Capitol Broadcasting's CBS affiliate in
Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville, N.C., WRAL-TV, made headlines
recently when the station, wanting a piece of the digital
action, said it wanted to offer the entire CBS lineup and
commercials live on the Internet and also to sell the programs
as part of a video-on-demand service, restricting access to
those people in its viewing area.

Some recent moves have signified cooperation between
networks and their affiliates. ABC, for example, is streaming
select shows on its own Web site as part of a two-month trial,
but the network said Friday that four regional affiliates and
its Los Angeles-owned outlet have agreed to promote the
venture on their Web sites.

And last month, Fox signed a six-year extension to an
agreement with affiliates that made it the first broadcast
network to set aside a portion of revenue derived from
recycling programming on digital platforms.

But Warners executives tout their model as the first that
lets stations benefit from streaming the episodes directly on
their own sites.

The episodes will run on an advertiser-supported basis,
with Warners and the local station or cable network sharing
revenues. The episodes also will feature DVD functionality,
where viewers can pause, rewind and fast-forward during the
program itself but will not be able to fast-forward through the

Warners also will be offering additional content including
behind-the-scenes material, on-set interviews, outtakes,
bloopers and episodic promos. Other promotional features
include "watch and win" contests, sweepstakes and games.

"The consumers have spoken: They want to see content in a
lot of different places," said Bruce Rosenblum, president of
Warner Bros. Television Group.

The executives added that Internet surfers outside a
station's viewing area (excluding international surfers) won't
be blocked from watching the episodes on that station's Web
site, but they don't see that as a problem because most TV
viewers will be directed to their local station's site via
on-air promos and won't necessarily be looking at the sites of
stations they are not familiar with.

"Two and a Half Men" is in its third season on CBS. Shows
usually enter syndication after four years, when they have
about 100 episodes in the can.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter