Look out Letterman and Leno. Network late-night heavyweights may soon get some competition from Kyle, Stan, Kenny, Cartman and the rest of the inhabitants of South Park. According to Reuters, Comedy Central has inked a deal with distributor Debmar Studios to shopping the hit animated series for syndication on broadcast television.
Now in its seventh season, South Park has remained Comedy Central’s highest rated program since its debut six years ago. The irreverent comedy has legions of loyal fans and has even spawned an R-rated big-screen release. Despite its popularity, the subject matter of some of the storylines and the use of profanity, bleeped though it may be, could prove to be stumbling blocks as the show hits the auction block. While network TV is petrified by the thought of offending anyone, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker pride themselves on creating social satire that takes no prisoners.
While terms of the deal have not been made public, Daily Variety speculates that the show could fetch as much as $100 million during its first four years in syndication. That would make it the highest-grossing cable import.
The growing popularity of late-night, adult-targeted animation has meant big ratings for cablers like Cartoon Network and Spike TV. Just as the networks jumped on the reality show bandwagon following the success of MTV’s The Real World, it is likely that CBS, NBC and ABC will all be seeking edgy animated properties to compete with CN’s Adult Swim and other toon blocks that come on after the kiddies are tucked in bed.