Internet distributors are changing the TV syndication game

TV production studio executives have been wary of Internet distribution, fearing it would lead to increased piracy and destroy secondary markets. But video streaming services are becoming a boon.“Community,” NBC’s quirky Thursday night comedy, has been a slacker in the ratings.The sitcom about misfit community college students, starring Joel McHale and Chevy Chase, has averaged about 4 million viewers an episode this season, not enough to guarantee survival in the dog-eat-dog world of network television. The tepid ratings prompted NBC to put the show on hiatus. Still, despite its struggles, the series is headed toward the promised land of syndication.Just a few years ago, a syndication sale for a modest performer like “Community” would have been unthinkable. Only the most popular and durable network comedies, such as “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” which this season are each drawing more than 15 million viewers an episode, were a lock for syndication, the corner of the business where the big money is made. In the past, TV executives would have to wait until a series made it to a fourth season — putting it close to the magic number of 100 episodes — before gearing up their syndication pitches to TV station groups and cable channels hungry for network reruns.But earlier this month, the online video service Hulu announced that it was acquiring the Internet rights to “Community,” which is co-produced by Sony Pictures Television and NBCUniversal. The cable channel Comedy Central, owned by Viacom Inc., also has been in talks to license reruns of “Community.” That syndication deal, if consummated, could convince NBC to bring back the show, which costs about $2 million an episode to produce, for a fourth season.To read this Los Angeles Times report in full, see:,0,2613458.story

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