If you love TV, you've probably heard the term before: syndication. But what is television syndication, exactly? Simply put, syndicated shows are either "first-run," meaning they are "free agents" that are not owned by any particular network (like Star Trek: The Next Generation), or they're "second-run," meaning they used to belong to a network (like NBC and Seinfeld) but they now air elsewhere (these are reruns, essentially).Despite the increasing popularity of on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, syndicated, over-the-air TV is still extraordinarily popular among viewers (Wheel of Fortune and Judge Judy dominate the ratings) and TV syndication statistics show they're highly profitable to the studios and talent involved (let's just say the titular 2 Broke Girls aren't broke anymore!). The shows that make the most in syndication, in fact, are also very popular online (see The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family), proving that it's the content that matters most, not the delivery system. Here are some must-read TV syndication facts and stats to get you ready for your next round of channel surfing!
Seinfeld Has Generated More Than $3 Billion in Syndication
Seinfeld is unquestionably the most successful second-run syndicated show of all time: the show has generated over $3.1 billion (that's right: billion) in syndication fees since NBC aired the last episode in 1998. Not bad for a "show about nothing" that the president of NBC thought was "too New York" and "too Jewish" when he agreed to a measly four-episode run back in 1989. Jerry Seinfeld himself, by the way, has earned an estimated $400 million from syndication alone.
Some Syndicated Shows Are Sped Up to Allow for More Commericials
Most contemporary sitcoms run around 21 or 22 minutes, with about eight minutes left over for ads. Older sitcoms like Seinfeld, however, originally ran for 25 minutes with only five minutes for commercials. So how does a network like TBS handle this potential loss of revenue when they air syndicated Seinfeld reruns? They speed up the show! It may sound crazy, but the episodes you see on TBS are actually several minutes shorter to free up room for ad space. They're subtle, but the cuts are there. So much for timing being the key to comedy...
Syndication Saved Baywatch
Love it or hate it, Baywatch was at one point one of the world's most popular TV shows, and syndication is almost entirely to thank for that. NBC cancelled the show after just one season in 1990, but it got a new life in weekly syndication shortly thereafter, airing for 10 more seasons in more than 100 countries. Reruns of the first-run syndicated series were also syndicated as part of a deal with the USA Network in 1997.
Major Dad Made Syndication History
NBC's Major Dad may not have the massive following of a Friends or Seinfeld, but it did make TV history when it became the first off-network comedy to go straight to cable. The military family sitcom aired on the USA Network instead of the more traditional route of being sold to local broadcast stations for syndication. Back in 1993 it also set a record cable syndication price of $600,00 per episode.