The latest news on the TV beat

By Joe Flint
Updated November 13, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST
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SYNDIE CITY The nice thing about TV is that even when the networks’ prime-time shows suck, you can always find a good syndicated rerun to turn to. Hate Conrad Bloom or Dateline? Somewhere there’s a Law & Order or NYPD Blue playing. In some cities, you can even find Mad About You or Frasier repeats airing in prime time.

But that may change if NBC has its way. The network, worried that the syndie counterparts of its hit shows are luring away potential viewers, has told some TV studios that if they want to keep doing business with the Peacock, they’ll make sure those shows don’t air during prime time. (Studios are already prohibited from allowing reruns to air opposite their first-run network doppelgangers.)

That NBC is taking such a firm stand shows just how nitpicky TV negotiations have become. (ABC, CBS, and Fox have yet to weigh in on this debate, but if NBC is successful, look for the others to follow suit.) Not only do the networks want ownership and more long-term series deals, they now want to dictate how the studios can package their reruns.

Studios make the bulk of their money in syndication. And although sitcom repeats don’t end up in prime time all that often, dramas do. Cable networks rely heavily on dramas to fill up their prime-time schedules (e.g., Lifetime’s encore episodes of Chicago Hope, and FX’s NYPD Blue and The X-Files). If the studios can’t do that anymore, they’re sure to lose a serious piece of change. ”This is not a rational thought,” one studio executive complains about NBC’s demand. In the past, this exec says, the studios were in a position to tell NBC ”to take a hike,” but these days, given all the existing tension between the nets and producers about bigger sticking points such as ownership, ”we will have to agree.” And we’ll have to suffer.

AND SO ON Delta Burke reunites with her Designing Women costar Annie Potts in an upcoming episode of the latter’s Lifetime series Any Day Now.

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