Marking the first time an Internet portal has joined the TV syndication biz, MSN has snapped up rerun rights to “Arrested Development” in an unusual three-outlet deal that includes G4 and HDNet.
News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Digital Media worked together with the purpose of using the critically acclaimed but low-rated sitcom to start building a new online market for its programming.
“We wanted to get one of the major portals to step up and become a client that is competing with the basic cable networks,” said Fox Digital Media prexy Peter Levinsohn.
Microsoft-owned portal will make all 53 episodes of “Arrested” available on demand, with ads. It also will create original interactive elements in an attempt to build an online community and attract new fans.
MSN, Yahoo! and AOL have all offered individual episodes of network shows for promotional purposes, and AOL streams classic Warner Bros. shows on its In2TV service. In addition, WB is selling Internet rights along with on-air for “Two and a Half Men” to TV stations (Daily Variety, May 8).
But new deal is the first a portal has made for exclusive broadband rights in firstrun syndication. MSN will pay Twentieth TV a license fee and share some advertising revenue.
“Not only do we have the entire catalog, but online we can create an immersive world for ‘Arrested Development,’ ” said Rob Bennett, MSN general manager of entertainment and video services. “We want to tap into the passion of the existing audience and give them tools to draw in people who haven’t watched before.”
Fox can still work with other partners, such as Apple iTunes, to sell downloads of individual episodes.
With only 53 episodes shot and relatively weak ratings over its three-year run, “Arrested” wasn’t a strong candidate for syndication despite its fervent fan base. Showtime considered reviving the skein, but it couldn’t reach a deal with creator Mitch Hurwitz (Daily Variety, March 28).