Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios announced the lease of 75,000 square feet of production space in Culver City, Calif. on Thursday, which the company plans to use for its 35th and 36th television series, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
These will be the studio’s third and fourth brand new scripted sitcoms in less than two years, and once again, Allen is going forward with the half-hour syndicated shows without pilots for either, THR reported.
They will be funded by his own company, with an initial guaranteed order of 104 episodes of each, or 208 episodes in total. Allen won’t reveal numbers, but THR puts the cost of production for the shows at roughly $350,000 to $400,000 each, which by major network standards is a bargain these days. That is a minimum investment of $72.8 million for the 208 episodes.
Regarding his cost-effective productions, Allen boasts he has never canceled a show. “The way I see it we’re the Walmart of television,” says Allen. “We make it very efficiently but we don’t cut costs on writers or actors.”
Allen, a stand-up comic who has built (and still wholly owns) a company with over $100 million in annual revenues, has already found financial success with his first two scripted shows, “The First Family” and “Mr. Box Office.” They joined the corporate line-up of 30 unscripted shows that Entertainment Studios has created and sold since 1993.
“The First Family” and “Mr. Box Office” launched in September 2012 with highly recognizable casts, largely made up of African American actors. That helped Entertainment Studios sell them a month ago to Viacom’s BET Network, to air on their spinoff Centric Channel in a unique deal. The shows still first air on local TV stations in broadcast syndication but then get a second run on the cable service days later; and a third run a week later on Comedy.tv, one of Allen’s eight 24-hour linear HD television networks.
“That is the largest licensing of sitcom sight unseen,” enthuses Allen, adding: “They licensed almost 190 episodes sight unseen. That’s the largest cable deal of its kind.”
Allen is also offering “The First Family” and “Mr. Box Office” to local TV stations as a Monday through Friday strip in syndication beginning in fall 2014, even as they continue airing on cable and on Comedy.tv, which currently is available in about one million U.S. TV homes (mostly on Verizon Fios).
This time, vows Allen, he is not going to be limiting the shows to an African American cast. “These sitcoms will be broad in nature,” Allen tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They will have recognizable big name stars who I can’t name yet. Basically, were going after the “Big Bang,” “Two And A Half Men” and “How I Met Your Mother audience.”