“The Middle” heads to WGN-TV, ABC Family for syndication

In what can be billed as a blindside announcement, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution announced Tuesday the sale of ABC Wednesday night sitcom The Middle to 92 percent of the country for off-network syndication beginning in September 2013, with station groups representing Tribune, Sinclair, Weigel, Raycom, and CBS.

The swift announcement – and just as swift clearance of the show took a lot of people by surprise as many observers did not know The Middle was even out on the market.

Locally, the series will be seen weeknights on WGN-TV. While no time slot has been announced, it’s a good bet The Middle would replace 30 Rock at 6:30 p.m. as the sitcom has not been performing well as expected in off-network.

Tribune’s WPIX in New York has also picked up the show, and so has sister station KTLA in Los Angeles. Sinclair’s WPGH/WPTT in Pittsburgh and WBFF/WNUV in Baltimore are also on board.

Nationally, ABC Family has bought the cable rights to The Middle, and is also debuting it in September 2013.

Warner Bros. sold The Middle on a cash/barter basis, with 1:30 held for national ad sales; 5:30 goes to the stations to sell locally. The terms are right in line with Warner’s other off-network offerings in recent years, including Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.

Airing on Wednesday nights opposite American Idol and Survivor, The Middle has been a solid performer for ABC, finishing third in its time slot among adults 18-49, and does even better when one or the other isn’t on, even in repeats.

The Middle is about two parents (Patricia Heaton of Everybody Loves Raymond fame and Chicago native Neil Flynn of Scrubs fame) who raise their kids in Indiana in “the middle” of the country (as opposed to those overused urban sitcom centers of New York and Los Angeles.)

The Middle is the second off-net sitcom to be announced for fall 2013; earlier, Twentieth Television sold Modern Family to USA Network and more than 200 television stations, including Fox’s two outlets in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the other series available for launch in 2013 (The Cleveland Show) has been sold to TBS and Adult Swim, but a broadcast syndication deal has yet to be announced.