Actors benefit as major networks run cable shows

Thu Mar 6, 2008 10:56pm EST
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By Nicole Kristal

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - Actors who land on successful television series often eagerly await the day when their shows go into syndication, with the promise of increased residuals.

Since the Hollywood writers strike left gaps in the primetime schedule, that day is coming sooner than expected, and with a twist: Shows still in production that made their mark on cable are moving to major networks, rather than the other way around.

The trend is providing actors with additional residual checks and exposure to larger audiences. This cable-to-network cross-pollination, though potentially short lived, promises to help actors' careers and their pocketbooks.

Second-run episodes of Showtime's "Dexter" transferred to sister network CBS last month, and USA Network's "Psych" and "Monk" will graduate within USA's family, to NBC, in April for eight-episode limited runs.

"Dexter," the story of serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) who enacts his brand of vigilante justice, made its CBS premiere February 17, drawing 8.1 million viewers. (By contrast, the highest-rated episode during the show's second-season run on Showtime last year drew 1.4 million viewers.)

"It's exciting to broaden the audience for a show we believe in," said Erik King, who plays Sgt. James Doakes on "Dexter." "Financially, let's just say it's never been done before, and it's something that should be considered going forward."

CBS doesn't publicly discuss these types of syndication deals, but the SAG residual contract dictates that pay for a television program that moves from cable to a broadcast network is the same pay that actors would receive if they appeared on a show originally made for a broadcast network. That pay range varies, depending on the actor's role on the show, whether he or she is a regular cast member and other factors.

Episodes of USA's "Monk" and "Psych" will start airing April 6 on NBC. But at least one cast member has mixed feelings about the repurposing.   Continued...