Video: 'Sex and the City' going mainstream

By Rebecca Quick Reporter
updated 2/23/2004 6:11:34 PM ET 2004-02-23T23:11:34

It was a "Big" finish last night for Carrie Bradshaw and the other "Sex and the City" characters. After six years, the HBO series aired its final original episode. (Of course, nothing is certain in television!) Ratings aren't readily available, so exactly how many viewers the show attracted isn't known. What is known, however, is that Time Warner is counting on a lot of people watching reruns.

Perhaps even more interested than Time Warner are TBS and the Tribune Company — the two companies are expected to pay about $100 million to run the "Sex and the City" shows. And that adds up to one fat payday for Time Warner, the parent of HBO.

The first reruns will air on the TBS cable station starting in June. TBS is forking over a reported $68 million in licensing fees and ad time to get the show on the air for about a year before it goes into syndication.

The Tribune Company, meanwhile, won syndication rights. That deal is expected to be worth another $30 million or so. It will run the shows at its 26 stations starting in 2005.

But Tribune stations only cover about 40 percent of the country, and Time Warner is already making more money by selling to other local stations, such as KRON in San Francisco, which is paying about $10.4 million.

There was a big battle to win the rights to "Sex and the City." Bill Carroll, an analyst for the Katz Television group, says that is because there is still a big audience that has never seen the show.

"I think it was one of the most sought after programs because it has such a following and because roughly 30 million viewers have HBO. When you start to go to TBS, you're looking at maybe three times that many, and when you go to syndication, you're looking at the whole television universe," Carroll said.

Of course, the big question now is how "Sex and the City" will play on mainstream television, especially in the wake of the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco. For starters, there will be some heavy editing to remove some of the racier scenes, including frontal nudity. And then there will be plenty of "looping the dialog," an industry trick used to cut out dirty words. HBO occasionally shot extra scenes for just such a scenario.

Moreover, there are a few episodes that are simply too over-the-top to make to syndication. Out of 94 total episodes, the guess is three or four are beyond the point of rehabilitation for standard cable television.

© 2011 MSNBC Interactive

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