"Star Trek: The Next Generation" returns

Star Trek: The Next Generation is returning home to where it all began. Its mission: to boost ratings in a landscape of tawdry talk shows, crummy courtroom shows, and According to Jim-like off-network sitcoms.

Reruns of the sequel to Star Trek, which practically put one-hour scripted action dramas on the map in syndication in the 1980s and 1990s, has been sold to 83 percent of the country for its second syndicated act by CBS Television Distribution for this fall. 178 episodes were produced between 1987 and 1994, and all are available for this upcoming package. Station groups signing on include CBS, Sinclair, and Tribune (individual stations were not identified.)

Paramount Domestic Television announced the revival of Star Trek for syndication in October 1986, and premiered on September 28, 1987 to more than 25 million viewers. The series went on to be nominated for eighteen Emmy Awards, and became the first syndicated drama to nominated for Outstanding Drama Series in 1994, its seventh and final season.

Star Trek: TNG helped make Paramount’s syndication operations one of the richest and most successful in the industry, and helped put a huge number of independent TV stations on the map. One of those stations was WPWR-TV in Chicago, which ran the show Saturdays at 6 p.m. (and again at 10:30 p.m. on Sundays) and always finished a strong second in its time period.

The program also was successful as an off-first run all-cash strip, bucking the trend at the time of hour-long dramatic series failing to find an audience in off-network syndication.

Star Trek: TNG moved to TNN (now Spike TV) in 2000, leaving broadcast syndication (WPWR even aired a “goodbye marathon” of the series.) The series has been thrown around the cable dial since, previously airing on G4 and SciFi Channel and now on WGN America.

The program helped spawned three other Star Trek series: Deep Space Nine (Syndication, 1993-99), Voyager (UPN, 1995-2002), and Enterprise (UPN, 2001-05), plus four movies.

The original Star Trek ran on NBC from 1966-69, but proved more popular in off-network syndication – so much so, several movies featuring the original cast were made. In 2006, Star trek returned to broadcast syndication as a weekly, completely remastered in high-definition (Star Trek: The Original Series airs on WWME-TV Saturdays at 5 p.m.)

An animated version aired on NBC’s Saturday morning lineup from 1973-75, produced by Filmation.

Thought: Great move by CBS Television Distribution. The return of Star Trek: The Next Generation provides a good alternative to the profiliation of court, game, and talk shows in syndication. It’s a all-barter deal (unlike in its last cycle in weekday syndication when it sold for cash – meaning no barter spots), so it’s a good deal for stations.

T Dog’s Think Tank Archive: No cable required. This post is from October 26, 2006, when NBC Universal announced it was selling Law & Order: Criminal Intent into broadcast syndication as a strip – the first time an off-network drama was sold into syndication in this manner in eight years.

Did you know? In addition to Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount also brought out another first-run drama titled Friday the 13th: The Series in 1987, though the show had no connection to the movie franchise of the same name. When Friday the 13th started having trouble attracting advertisers because of its often gory content, Paramount pulled the plug in 1990 after three seasons, along with another first-run drama, War of the Worlds after two.

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