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Mentions XENA and HERCULES as examples of shows which use a eight minute national/six minute local advertisement split.
Facing increasing production costs, decreasing international sales and declining ratings at home, more syndicators are looking to retain an added minute of barter time in their weekly hours. Of the new syndicated hours to hit the marketplace this year, only one -- New Line Television's ''The Lost World'' -- is being sold on an even barter basis with a seven-minute national/seven-minute local split. All the other series to make their way to the rep firms have presented marketing plans calling for an eight-minute national/six-minute local split, including Eyemark Entertainment's ''Peter Benchley's Amazon,'' Paramount Domestic Television's ''Avalon: Adventures of the Abyss,'' PolyGram Television's ''Total Recall 2070,'' Tribune Entertainment's ''Beastmaster,'' BKS/Bates Entertainment's ''Dream Team'' and Rysher Entertainment's untitled Tia Carrere project. And while those terms can ultimately change -- depending largely on the basic deal or deals needed to get the show into New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- it is apparent that distributors are increasingly looking to pick up added revenue in an effort to keep such shows financially viable. The drive behind syndicators looking for that extra minute of barter time is simple: Depending on a show's rating, that minute could mean up to an additional $1 million a year in revenue for a project. ''For most of these shows, there's not going to be a significant back-end, so syndicators have to get what they can up front,'' says Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for the Katz Television Group station rep firm. But there's a potential down side as well, as stations may be less likely to pick up a series if they have to give up an added minute of ad time an episode. Says one top station group executive who asked not to be identified, ''It's like the syndicator coming to you and asking for money.'' That, in turn, may land the series in weaker time periods where stations have less to lose by giving up the added minute or even on a weaker station in a given market, sources say. ''There's so much competition for those time periods that taking that extra minute of barter is a tough sell,'' says Chuck Larsen, a distribution consultant who heads October Moon Television. ''It's a dangerous tradeoff.'' Ups and downs The typical barter split on such syndicated hours has never been set in stone and seems to fluctuate readily with market conditions. Syndication watchers point out that in the late 1980s, when first-run syndicated hours were few, distributors generally took more advertising time than the stations did. The reason? The high production costs needed to deliver the series required it. But as more syndicated action hours entered the marketplace, syndicators began offering an even seven barter split in order to undercut the competition that was looking for an eight/six split or in some cases, a nine/five split. Soon, such a seven/seven split became commonplace -- although by no means exclusive. For the 1998 season, a host of new first-run projects carry with them a seven/seven split, among them ''Mortal Kombat: Crusades,'' ''The Crow,'' ''Motown Live,'' ''One World Music Beat,'' ''The New Adventures of Robin Hood,'' ''Stargate SG-1,'' ''Acapulco H.E.A.T'' and ''V.I.P.'' Other current series with a seven/seven split include ''Pensacola: Wings of Gold,'' ''Psi Factor,'' ''Wild Things'' and ''Poltergeist.'' The eight/six split is not uncommon either, attached to such freshmen series as ''Air America'' and ''Highlander: The Raven,'' and returning series including ''Xena'' and ''Hercules.'' ''As the economies are getting tougher, things are evolving back to the eight/six split,'' Mr. Larsen says. Feeling the pinch And stations are standing up and taking notice. Station executives say they already feel the pinch of syndicators looking to get double runs out of their syndicated hours, while the number of episodes delivered has steadily fallen from 26 per season to 22. And while they say they understand the need to give up the added minute of barter in special-effects laden shows with $1 million-plus production budgets such as ''Hercules'' and ''Xena,'' syndicators are now trying to take the added minute in just about everything they bring to market. ''It's a complicated issue,'' says Rick Feldman, vice president, general manager, KCOP-TV, Los Angeles. ''A lot of it has to do with the economies of producing the show, and on our end, you really don't know what those economies are. But we don't like an eight/six split. We don't like giving up an extra minute of inventory.'' Syndicators say they are trying to make an honest buck in an increasingly difficult business. ''Setting the barter split is a function of a couple of things,'' says Dick Askin, president of Tribune Entertainment. ''First of all, there is market demand, and what you think the market will bear. But certainly, you need to have a minimum barter load to cover your costs.'' He discounts talk that an eight/six barter split is anything new, noting that in the early days of the business, the split often went to nine/five or even higher. Other syndicators note that the barter load is often tied to ancillary revenue streams, especially those with a cable window, whereby series that are syndication-only are forced to look for an eight/six split, while those that have either a pay or basic cable component can get away with asking for a seven/seven split.
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