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TV IN TRANSITION: ABC, Warner map future

Nov 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Disney-owned ABC and Warner Bros. Television think they’ve hammered out a future “marketplace template” for repurposing current TV shows on cable networks with their deal for midseason show “The Court.”
Disney has obtained rights from producers Warner Bros. Television and John Wells Productions to place “The Court” in a second cable window on ABC Family Channel eight days after its initial airings on the ABC Television Network. “The Court” is tentatively scheduled to launch in January 2002.
As part of the licensing deal, which gives ABC initial contractual rights to “The Court” over what sources say is eight years (about double the length of the typical four-year deals on new series), ABC is estimated to be paying an additional $100,000 per episode licensing fee-taking into account the secondary run on cable.
Central to the deal, though, is what ABC and Warner Bros. officials said is a guaranteed incremental value that has been assigned to the cable exhibitions, where a formula has been created to protect the off-network value of the series. Mark Pedowitz, executive VP of the ABC Television Entertainment Group, said ABC’s back-end commitment depends on the number of episodes produced, number of years on the air and ratings performance.
Bruce Rosenblum, executive VP of Warner Bros. Television, said ABC’s “floating scale” guarantee also gives the studio an option to accept the back-end deal with ABC Family Channel or the right to accept a higher bid from a competing cable network. In the latter case scenario, he said ABC would still have an unspecified participatory stake in an outside cable sale on the back-end.
One competing studio production chief, who requested anonymity, speculated that ABC agreed to make a “sliding scale” guarantee of $200,000 to $500,000 per episode on the off-network cable run of “The Court,” which increases depending on the number of episodes produced. Neither Mr. Rosenblum nor Mr. Pedowitz would comment on specific financial terms for the dual-window license fee or the dollar parameters of the sliding back-end scale, which would trigger in the fifth year of “The Court’s” network runs.
“In creating what we think will be a template future network-studio series deals, we felt the most important thing [was] to find an equitable solution to the problem of where the additional exposures on broadcast and cable could potentially dilute some of the show’s back-end value,” Mr. Rosenblum said. “This deal [with ABC] has achieved an equitable pricing structure for the shared first-run windows as well as the residual [back-end] value of the show, so that the studio and its profit participants are equally protected as partners in the show.”
Added Mr. Pedowitz, who also oversees business affairs for Touchstone Television, “Both Bruce and I are hoping that this model can be put out there as a template for the six [broadcast] networks in order to restore some sanity to this business.”