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Sheen's $1 Billion Bender

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Charlie Sheen has become a toxic asset.

The Two and a Half Men star isn’t the first network TV celeb to go on rampages fueled by drugs or alcohol or both. But Sheen’s off-camera antics are different—he has shut production down, which is costing CBS and the show’s producer Warner Bros., dearly.

Two and a Half Men is currently the most-watched sitcom on network television, averaging more than 14 million viewers this year and now, in its eighth season, is a $1 billion dollar-plus franchise.

Even in repeats it does well; last Monday, a rerun had the biggest audience in prime time. The show has been the network’s Monday linchpin for years and its audience this season has largely hung around to get both Mike & Molly and Hawaii Five-O off to solid starts.

The program’s network and syndication license fees fetch an estimated $3 million per episode, according to analysts. And with roughly 170 episodes in the can, that’s over $500 million. Network advertising on the show’s CBS run has averaged about $160 million annually for the last three years, according to Kantar Media. The show has been renewed through the 2011-12 season, although expectations are that with Sheen healthy and clean, it could go for a couple more.

As tawdry bad boy behavior goes, Sheen has set the bar pretty high. Tales have been dished by porn stars and others of their nights of sex, drugs, booze and hotel room trashings in the run-up to CBS and Warner Bros.’ decision a little over a week ago to put the network’s Monday night hit on production hiatus as Sheen, for the second time in the last year, decided to give rehab yet another try.

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