“Anger Management,” the sitcom starring Charlie Sheen, is ahead of ratings guarantees that would trigger a 90-episode order by News Corp.’s FX, according to one of the show’s producers.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF) and Revolution Studios will receive the larger order after the final three episodes of the first season air, Joe Roth, founder of Revolution Studios, said in an interview.
“We’re over the hurdle rate of what we have to do in order for them to automatically pick it up,” Roth said. The next three episodes “have to air over the next three weeks and then the decision will be made.”
The 90 episodes would allow Lions Gate and Revolution Studios to market reruns of “Anger Management” to other networks, Roth said. The producers prefer so-called syndication rights to be handled by FX or News Corp. (NWSA)’s Fox, which already licenses repeats of Sheen’s former show “Two and a Half Men.”
Through seven episodes, “Anger Management” is averaging 3.4 million viewers, with 1.7 million among the advertiser- targeted 18-to-49 year-old demographic, according to Nielsen data. Year to date, FX ranks ninth among U.S. cable networks, with 1.32 million average prime-time viewers.
Due to interest in Sheen, demand from television networks outside the U.S. is four to five times higher than typical American comedies, Roth said.
“Typically an American sitcom is very difficult to sell overseas and we haven’t found that to be the case in this show,” Roth said. “It has to be a Charlie thing. There’s no other way.”
In “Anger Management,” a sitcom based on the 2003 movie of the same name, Sheen plays a therapist with aggression issues of his own.
Sheen was sentenced to 36 hours of anger management, 30 days in a rehabilitation center and 30 days of probation after pleading guilty to assaulting his wife on Christmas day in 2009, the Associated Press reported at the time. The couple later divorced.
The actor received two years of probation after pleading no contest to a charge in December 1996 of attacking a girlfriend at his Southern California home, according to the AP.
Lions Gate’s television studio, producer of “Mad Men” on AMC and “Weeds” on Showtime, contributed $397.3 million in fiscal 2012 sales, or about 25 percent of the company’s total revenue. That’s more than doubled since fiscal 2007, when TV produced $118.5 million, or 12 percent of sales.
The company’s Debmar-Mercury unit developed the model behind the “Anger Management” order. In exchange for producing 10 episodes of a show at minimal cost to a network, the company receives a guaranteed 90-episode order if the program hits negotiated ratings. The model resulted in a 90-episode order for “Are We There Yet” on Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s TBS.
Peter Wilkes, a spokesman for Lions Gate, declined to comment. John Solberg, a spokesman for FX in Los Angeles, didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.
Lions Gate, based in Vancouver and run from Santa Monica, California, fell as much as 3.8 percent to $12.75 in extended trading after reporting an unexpected fiscal first-quarter loss. The shares fell 2.8 percent to $13.25 in regular trading and have climbed 59 percent this year.
Revolution Studios is in talks to produce an original show for Netflix Inc. (NFLX), Roth said. Netflix already has rights to stream 46 movies from the company, including “Black Hawk Down,” “xXx” and “Hellboy,” he said.
Netflix will become competitive with television networks when it releases “House of Cards,” from director David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey, Roth said. That will also make the streaming service an attractive place for Hollywood producers to take shows, he said.
“They are a great content partner because they understand they’re a distributor and they understand they’re starting out with creative players,” Roth said. “They make a decision about what it is that they want, and they let you go do it.”
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