Question about TV terminology

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Adam Tyner, Jun 21, 2001.

  1. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    I'm sort of having a mild online debate with someone on the meaning of 'syndication', as applied to television and cable.
    Is there a term for when reruns of a television show wind up on one cable channel, but not a single other outlet? My stance is that such a case wouldn't be considered 'syndication', which, at least to me, implies more than a single channel of distribution. If it's not syndication (and if I'm wrong, please correct me), what is it?
    For the intensely bored, this is stemming from a discussion on the newsgroup alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer where a bunch of people refer to the series as "going into syndication on FX", and I posted a reply saying that it's going into syndication nationwide and that to me, syndication implies more than a single channel of distribution. Someone replied "correcting" me, saying that syndication has nothing to do with the number of channels a show may be on, be it zero, one, or one thousand. If I'm wrong, let me know. If I'm right, let me know. [​IMG] He also said that syndication isn't a method of distribution and all it means is that a series was produced before being offered, as well as that no series had ever bypassed a major network until "Star Trek: The Next Generation", so I find his claims a little questionable... [​IMG]
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  2. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Syndication is just the means of distribution, that it's sold to stations individually as opposed to a single cable channel or network. Also worth noting is that stations pay for syndicated fare, but have in the past actually charged networks for carrying their programming.
    The FX run of "Buffy" isn't called anything special; just reruns on FX. I've seen it refered to as "third-run" (first run being an episode's original airing, second run being the network re-running it that season), but I don't know how widespread that term is. "Third-run" programs can be syndicated, aired on a cable network, or both.
     
  3. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The Cisco Kid was syndicated back in the 1950s and never aired on a network, so your friend is off by about 35 years for this particular "breakthrough."
    You are correct. A studio sells a show to a syndicator who then resells it to individual broadcast stations. This is true of first-run syndicated shows like Hercules and Xena and syndicated reruns of network shows like I Love Lucy and Star Trek. Cable and cable-exclusive deals are a whole 'nuther animal. I'm not sure if they have their own name, but I know they are treated differently within the industry.
    For new productions both the Writer's Guild and Screen Actors Guild minimum basic agreements have three tiers for initial fees and for residuals for reruns, all based on which distribution channel the show originated in:
    National Broadcast Network shows pay the highest. (For contract purposes pay-TV cable services like Showtime and HBO count as Networks, but The WB and UPN don't. Fox didn't count as a network either until the last WGA contract. They will bump up their perecentage of the full "network" minimums they pay over the next three years until they reach parity with ABC, NBC and CBS.)
    First-run syndication comes next. (This includes The WB and Fox)
    Basic cable original pay the least. They also use a different formula for paying out residuals to actors, although the total money remains the same. (Shows produced for a network or syndication pay on a declining scale for "x" number of reruns, starting high then tapering off. Cable pays more equal amounts for "y" number of reruns.)
    (One of the reasons David Ducovney sued Fox over The X-Files is that they sold the show exclusively to f/x for a low figure. Since actors' residuals are based on the package price of the syndication sale, he claimed - rightly in my view - that he would lose serious money in residuals compared to what he might have earned had the show been auctioned off in regular syndication.)
    Regards,
    Joe
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  4. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    The term "syndication" is used (perhaps mis-used) to mean re-selling a TV show regardless of the buyer, whether the show is being sold to individual TV stations in each city or a single cable network buying exclusive rights to the show.
    I believe Duchovny sued Fox because Fox had sold X-Files re-runs to its own stations (Fox network affiliates that are owned by Fox itself, called "O&O's" by the industry) instead of selling to the highest bidder in those cities that have Fox O&O's. Although it's probably also true that he sued because Fox may have done the same thing with FX, selling X-Files re-runs to a Fox-owned network rather than putting it up for bid. Sci-Fi Channel is the logical home for X-Files re-runs, but Fox could shuffle money around to guarantee that FX outbid Sci-Fi Channel. The question of fairness to Duchovny is whether X-Files was subjected to competitive bidding that would have secured a higher price.
    CBS bought TNN and then Viacom bought CBS, therefore Star Trek TNG is coming to TNN this fall. Clearly a case of megacorporate mutual backscratching (there's a vulgar sexual reference that's more appropriate here), because Star Trek doesn't belong on Redneckelodeon. However, Viacom did put Star Trek up for bids and TNN had to spend a lot of big daddy Viacom's dollars to get Star Trek.
     
  5. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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  6. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    As with the other networks, Fox's O&O's tend to be in the largest markets, where syndicated programs fetch the highest prices. There could have been a big difference if there had been competitive bidding for X-Files, that was Duchovny's beef.
    I read a few weeks ago that Duchovny and Fox had settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
     

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