FX Lands Warner’s ‘Mike & Molly’

Cable net buys off-net rights for a song

In what can be characterized as one hell of a bargain, FX has landed the off-network rights to the Warner Bros. Domestic Television comedy Mike & Molly for about half the market rate.

According to insiders, Warner licensed Mike & Molly to FX for a price that averages out to around $800,000 per episode, making it a steal when compared to recent off-net deals. In June, TBS paid a record $1.7 million per episode for the rights to Warner’s freshman sitcom, 2 Broke Girls, a few ticks higher than what the Turner net coughed up for The Big Bang Theory back in 2010 ($1.5 million).

All three aforementioned comedies originated on CBS, where they pull huge ratings. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, The Big Bang Theory was the top-rated scripted series on TV during the 2011-12 campaign, averaging 13.5 million viewers and a 4.4 rating in the adults 18-to-49 demo.

In its first season on CBS, 2 Broke Girls was the No. 1 new scripted show, averaging 9.88 million viewers and a 3.7 in the demo. As for Mike & Molly, the Melissa McCarthy vehicle is no slouch, delivering 10.2 million viewers and a 3.2 in the demo behind the juggernaut that is Two and a Half Men.

Next fall, Two and a Half Men will move to Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m., where it will lead out of TBBT. How I Met Your Mother will continue to set the table for CBS’s Monday night lineup, only instead of leading into 2 Broke Girls, the show begins its eighth season as the set-up man for newcomer Partners, a workplace/buddy comedy starring David Krumholtz and Michael Urie.

Partners will lead into 2 Broke Girls, which moves up a half-hour to the 9 p.m. slot. Girls then hands off to Mike & Molly in the final half-hour of CBS’s two-hour comedy block.

Warner brought Girls and M&M to market last month—both shows were also packaged for local broadcast syndication—but the sassier, brassier 2BG drew more heat than the latter series. M&M joins the FX roster in the fall of 2014.

Warner/CBS comedies have carried their weight on cable. Last week, The Big Bang Theory accounted of nine of the top 10 most-watched programs on TBS, and nearly two years into its off-net pact with FX, encore telecasts of Two and a Half Men still draw north of 2 million viewers.

While M&M may seem like an odd fit for FX’s stable of comedies—originals include the new Charlie Sheen project Anger Management, as well as Louis, Wilfred, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer and The League—network president John Landgraf has made a cottage industry out of confounding the industry’s expectations. For example, while FX proudly fosters gritty, uncompromising dramas such as American Horror Story, Sons of Anarchy and Justified, its movie library is primarily made up of blockbusters and family friendly titles. And for every Iron Man 2 or Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the network also boasts access to zeitgeist-defining films like The Social Network and Moneyball.

To date, 47 episodes of M&M have been produced, but that number will be closer to the traditional 100-show mark by the time FX slots the comedy into its prime time lineup. Early off-net deals are now the norm; in a deal that foreshadowed TBS’s big investment in 2 Broke Girls (24 extant episodes), USA Network in June 2010 made its first sitcom acquisition in Twentieth Television’s Modern Family. The popular ABC comedy had just wrapped its first season of 24 episodes when NBCUniversal made a deal for it and the Fox musical dramedy Glee.

Modern Family will make its USA debut in 2013. Discounting the cost of the Glee license fee, the Modern Family off-net deal is believed to be worth around $1.4 million per episode. 

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