What does "syndication" really mean?

I have never really understood what this term means. I thought when a sit-com dies, local TV studios can buy the show to air it locally. In short, syndication means re-runs. Very simple concept.

But with Oprah’s recent announcement of leaving, they say “she’s leaving syndicated television”. Huh? That just doesn’t compute! Based on my definition above, the closest analogy would be like bringing back some old TV show from the dead and resurrecting it. Like, if they suddenly started making some new MASH episodes (with the same cast - as opposed to a remaking of an old idea).

How could Oprah be in syndicated television? Nobody lives there! The “living” just isn’t allowed there!
Extra Credit: Similarly, can you explain the term “progressive rock”? Huh? Like, I you ain’t progressing, man, you’re “dead”, too!

Am I right, or am I right?

  • Jinx :confused:

Syndication just means the program is sold/distributed other than thru the normal local channel/network affilation.

I don’t know about your political persuasion, but you sure aren’t correct.

Syndication just means that a show is offered to any station that wants to buy it. Period. That keeps shows from being tied to a single network. Any individual station, network or cable, can buy the episodes and run them. A syndicated show like Oprah may play on NBC in one city, CBS in a second, ABC in a third and so on.

Lots of original programming is syndicated. That includes popular dramatic shows like Xena and Hercules as well as talk shows and game shows and every other type of entertainment.

Reruns work the same way. They are bid out as a package, with city by city exclusivity for the networks.

Nothing new about this either. Syndicated shows are as old as television and were widely used before anybody heard of cable networks.

I think syndication has to do with local programming during the non-network hours of the day. Local channels can buy old re-run shows, or new, non-network shows, or whatever else they like.

How does syndication work? I complained to the local WB affiliate when they started showing reruns of The Office. The episodes we’re getting are in NO kind of order. They jump back and forth between seasons – there’s no continuity at all and sometimes we’ll see the same episodes just a week or so apart.

Here’s their response:

“We do not choose which episodes air (NBC Universal- the syndicator is in control of that) but as a result of your email I looked into the matter further. What I found has lead to multiple conference calls with NBC and a continued effort on our part to get a better separation of shows from them.”

It sounds like WB is “renting” the episodes, and like NBC doesn’t give a lick about providing the episodes in proper chronological sequence.

There are a lot of still airing shows already in syndication: Bones, House, How i Met Your Mother, all three CSI shows, every imaginable Law and Order, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Cold Case, Numb3rs, NCIS, Ghost Whisperer, Supernanny…

Right. The “magic number” for syndication is 100 episodes. After that, any show that’s even moderately popular is sold into syndication.

As an aside, Roger Ebert once dated Oprah and suggested that she syndicate her show. The rest is history.

Rule #1: you do not define a term by defining the words that make it up. You are breaking this rule by assuming “progressive rock” is defined by defining “progressive” and “rock.”

“Progressive rock” as a genre is a form of rock music that tries to emulate classical music, but creating longer forms and more complex melodies. It also emulates jazz improvisation. Lyrics generally are about mythic idea and fantasy tropes, and avoid love songs (most of the time) and the themes that were common in rock. It’s primarily a British genre; it never really caught among US groups.

This is basically it- a local network affiliate purchases the syndication rights from the distributor, and the distributor provides the episodes as well as promos. (This is why whenever you see a promo for a syndicated show, you usually hear two announcers- the one in the syndicated promo and the local announcer stating the time and station name.)

Oprah is what is considered a “first-run syndication” show, meaning that it is a program specifically sold for syndication as opposed to a former network show having its reruns syndicated. Oprah is distributed by CBS Television Distribution (formerly King World), which also distributes such first-run syndicated programs as Entertainment Tonight and Jeopardy!. Interestingly, the New York Post reported today that the loss of Oprah may make it difficult to find buyers of advertising time on CBS’s other syndicated shows.

Television shows are made by various production companies. Then these shows are sold via various ways.

One way is via national over the air (OTA) networks. Think of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Now some shows like “Oprah” aren’t on a network. “The Big Bang Theory,” airs on CBS, but “Oprah” can air on any TV station, ABC, NBC, CBS or Independent.

This is what, as another poster noted is called “First Run Syndication.” In the 80s we had a glut of first run syndication. “It’s A Living,” “Too Close For Comfort,” “Charles In Charles,” and “Mama’s Family,” were among the shows that started out on a network, to cancelled and instead of going away, they made NEW episodes and put them into first run syndication. You also had shows like “Small Wonder” and “Xena” which never ran on a network. They were always first run syndication.

Show as another poster noted, like to have 100 episodes 'cause that makes it easier to syndicate. However there were exceptions. “The Honeymooners” only made 39 episodes and these were syndicated and were very popular. “The Honeymooners” was a bit odd 'cause it aired as its own show(39 episodes) and it also aired as just one sketch on “The Jackie Glenson Show.” Later on the episodes that aired as part of the “Jackie Gleason Show,” were found and added to that package.

Remember back in the 50s and early to mid 60s, TV shows made 39 new episodes a season. Then it was slowly reduced over the year to 36, them 33, then 29, then 26, now most TV shows have 22 or 23 new episodes a year. So a show like “Gilligan’s Island” ran only three years but had 98 episodes. Now it would take more than four years to get that many episodes.

When a show gets to a hundred episodes or has been on the air for four years, it gets sold into syndication. How it’s sold is a matter of popularity.

Hugly popular shows like “Seinfeld” were sold with exclusitivity. That means originally “Seinfeld” ran on one TV station per market. It wasn’t allowed to run on cable. Why? Because that’s too much exposure. Later on after the original syndication contract was up, “Seinfeld” was allowed to run on one station per market AND a cable channel"

Some shows are not as successful. This show was sold right from the start to BOTH cable and OTA TV markets. Such as “Still Standing”

Some shows like “Ellen,” (sitcom) and “Dave’s World” were sold directly into cable with no local OTA markets.

Who controls the order the shows are shown? It depends on the show being syndicated. Some shows are sold and the production company controls the order. Some do not. Some shows are also sold, with conditions like, “must be played twice each weekday,” or other conditons.

In the old days TV shows were usually syndicated after they ran for seven years, not four. Many areas of the United States didn’t have cable (this was in the late 70s) and didn’t have all three major networks ABC, NBC, and CBS. (FOX and the CW didn’t exist

So not all areas of the USA got to see all TV shows when they were first run. This is why often a show went into syndication it changed it name. This way the TV station showig it couldn’t pass it off as a first run TV show.

For example:

“Bonanza” became “Ponderosa”
“Happy Days” became “Happy Days Again”
“Carol Burnett” became “Carol Burnett And Friends”
“Laverne and Shirley” became “Laverne and Shirley and Company”
“The Andy Griffith Show” became “Andy of Mayberry.”

This way viewers could be sure they were seeing reruns not first run shows.

Just to add another tidbit to the knowledge base here…

Syndicators frequently use the “barter” system to peddle their shows. In a barter arrangement, the syndicator/distributor essentially gives the episode to the local station. In exchange, the syndicator keeps about half the available commercial time, while the local station sells the other half. The syndicator then sells its portion of the commercial time to national advertsers, while the local station gets a free program and still gets a few commercials to sell on its own.

Around here, we have a local station running Frasier at the same time it’s running on Lifetime. The two packages are from different seasons, but run the same ads during the first two commercial breaks. For the third commercial break, the commercials are different.

Star Trek (original series) nearly got canceled after year 2. I think they announced it was canceled but after a lot of fans wrote in they brought it back for the 3rd year. Had they not had year 3 they would have not gone to syndication. Which probably meant no more shows, movies, etc.

Does this have anything to do with why, after 20 years, Simpsons reruns are still not seen on ANY cable channel? You can (or could) find pretty much any other successful (or moderately successful) series from that timeframe in cable reruns at some point, even if also in syndicated reruns, but never the Simpsons on cable (other than the Movie running on HBO, anyway…)

It makes no sense living in a world where Family Guy runs on more channels than the Simpsons.

I don’t know about cable channels where you live, but here, Simpsons reruns are a staple on the ‘Comedy Network’ cable channel. (That’s Canadian, eh?)