Must-Read Facts About Television Syndication

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Vote up the most interesting facts about the world of syndicated television.

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!
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  • 1
    132 VOTES

    The Stars of I Love Lucy Basically Invented Syndication

    The Stars of I Love Lucy Basically Invented Syndication
    Photo: CBS
    Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made reruns commonplace, and without reruns, there would be no syndication. The I Love Lucy duo made a deal with CBS in 1951 to produce the show on higher-quality film instead of the industry-standard blurry kinescope, allowing for decent looking reruns down-the-road (kinescope's quality wasn't up to snuff for repeated viewings). The couple also later struck one of the first major syndication deals in TV history when they sold 180 episodes of I Love Lucy to CBS for $5 million ($19.5 million today).
    132 votes
  • 2
    150 VOTES

    Seinfeld Has Generated More Than $3 Billion in Syndication

    Seinfeld Has Generated More Than $3 Billion in Syndication
    Photo: NBC
    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.
    150 votes
  • 3
    143 VOTES

    Some Syndicated Shows Are Sped Up to Allow for More Commericials

    Some Syndicated Shows Are Sped Up to Allow for More Commericials
    Photo: NBC
    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...
    143 votes
  • 4
    101 VOTES

    Syndication Can Be a Very Lucrative Business

    Syndication Can Be a Very Lucrative Business
    Photo: CBS
    There's big money to be made in syndication - especially for 2 Broke Girls. The syndication rights to the CBS sitcom were sold to TBS in 2012 for a record-setting $1.7 million per episode, the most ever for a half-hour sitcom. The Big Bang Theory pulled a big $1.5 million in 2010, while Modern Family sold to USA for $1.4 million in 2010. Hour-long shows do even better: three CSI shows were all sold for more than $1 million per episode, and The Sopranos and Hawaii Five-0 each pulled $2.5 million.
    101 votes
  • 5
    75 VOTES

    Star Trek: TNG Is the Only First-Run Syndicated Show to Receive an Emmy Nom for Best Drama

    Star Trek: TNG Is the Only First-Run Syndicated Show to Receive an Emmy Nom for Best Drama
    Photo: CBS
    First-run syndicated TV dramas just don't get the respect of network shows, especially at the Emmys. In fact, Star Trek: The Next Generation is still the only first-run syndicated show that has ever been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. Paramount took a big risk by launching the show in syndication, but it sure paid off: the show became a huge financial and critical success for the studio.
    75 votes
  • 6
    88 VOTES

    Major Dad Made Syndication History

    Major Dad Made Syndication History
    Photo: NBC
    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.
    88 votes