NEW YORK — Fans of “Empire” will be able to binge-watch each episode of the drama’s current season prior to the season finale May 18 as part of an unusual syndication deal between Fox and the TV One network announced Thursday.
The cable network that targets black viewers also will air reruns of the music business drama this summer, and present another binge-watching marathon of episodes prior to the beginning of the third season next fall. (All the episodes already are available for streaming on Hulu.)
The deal involving a program that has been on the air for only 15 months illustrates how television’s syndication market is changing. It’s also a big play for attention for TV One, a network available in roughly half of the nation’s television homes that previously trafficked in old sitcoms such as “Sanford & Son” and “Good Times.”
“Our audience is going to really devour the show,” said Brad Siegel, TV One president.
Gone are the days when a television show’s 100th episode was cause for celebration on the set. That was traditionally the cutoff point for the number of episodes necessary to sell rerun rights in syndication.
But BET blazed a trail in 2013 in its deal with ABC’s “Scandal” in only that show’s second year. It enabled BET to air shows eight days after the original episode was on the broadcast network.
The “Empire” deal benefits TV One in putting one of television’s hottest shows on the air, and Fox because it gives fans extra opportunities to catch up with the stories on a serialized drama.
When “Empire” takes a break midway through its third season next winter, TV One will air that season’s episodes prior to the midseason return. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Serialized shows are well-suited to these new arrangements because they’re not as durable in reruns as dramas like “Law & Order,” where each episode is a single story, said Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Media.
“I really think it’s smart on Fox’s behalf to recognize that you have to do things differently now, the world is changing so fast,” Siegel said.
TV One hopes the attention it receives from televising “Empire” will attract viewers to its growing slate of original series. The network is also aggressively moving into the TV movie business, and will produce 26 new movies next year, Siegel said.