USA Nabs Modern Family Rights, Oxygen Picks Up Glee

The syndication market continues to burn bright, as Twentieth Century Fox Television has engineered major off-net rights deals for the hit comedies Glee and Modern Family.

Marking its first major sitcom acquisition, USA Network has ponied up approximately $1.4 million per episode for the rights to ABC’s breakout hit, Modern Family, outbidding the comedy-focused Turner net TBS. While financials were not disclosed, per terms of the agreement USA will strip the series Monday through Sunday starting in the fourth quarter of 2013.

USA currently has the rights to two other off-net comedies in Becker (1998-2004, CBS) and Wings (1990-97, NBC), although given their vintage the shows run at off-peak hours. More recently, the network has bolstered its lineup of original scripted series with the a few big drama pickups, investing some $2.4 million per episode last fall for the rights to CBS Television Studios’ NCIS: Los Angeles and spending $1.4 million a pop in 2005 to pick up the off-net rights to Fox’ House.

“This is by far the most significant sitcom acquisition we have ever made,” said Jane Blaney, USA’s executive vp, programming, acquisitions and scheduling. “Modern Family is the hottest new sitcom that premiered during the 2009-10 TV season and it’s a perfect fit for USA.”

The network closed out the quarter tops among all basic-cable outlets, averaging 3.21 million viewers in prime, of which 1.33 million were members of the 25-54 demo and 1.2 million were viewers 18-49.

Modern Family averaged 9.48 million viewers in its Wednesday 9 p.m. time slot.

USA sibling Oxygen also broke out its pocketbook, snapping up the basic-cable syndication rights to Fox’ Glee, with an eye toward running a marathon of season two episodes in January 2011. On the heels of the winter cable debut, Oxygen will develop a companion unscripted competition that will feature contestants battling for a guest stint on Glee.

The reality show will bow next June. Sources eyeballed Oxygen’s investment in the Glee package at between $500,000 and $600,000 per hour.

“This is a unique syndication opportunity and we’re thrilled to be working on it with Oxygen,” said Steve MacDonald, executive vp, general sales manager, basic cable of Twentieth Television. “This deal not only provides viewers with the opportunity to see even more of the drama, comedy, song and dance that they have come to expect from Glee, but also extends the reach of this pop-culture phenomenon’s brand through a new reality series.”

Glee averaged 9.77 million viewers on Fox over the course of its first season, per Nielsen.

The deal comes on the heels of Oxygen’s highest-rated second quarter in its history. Per Nielsen, Oxygen averaged 431,000 total viewers in prime, an improvement of 12 percent versus Q2 2009. Demos were also up in the period, as the net boosted deliveries of viewers 18-49 by 8 percent to 222,000, while women 18-49 were up 4 percent to 164,000.