NBC Universal Wins ‘National Treasure’

Jan 31, 2005  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal has struck treasure and plans to spread it around.

NBCU has acquired the premiere broadcast window for the blockbuster “National Treasure” for its broadcast and cable networks from Buena Vista Television, a studio spokesperson confirmed.

The movie, starring Nicolas Cage, is expected to make its basic cable television debut on USA Network after it becomes available in fall 2007. It will also appear on NBC and on Sci Fi Channel. Runs on Bravo, another NBCU-owned cable network, are also possible.

The deal is the first for both broadcast and basic cable outlets made by NBCU since the acquisition of Vivendi Entertainment, which made NBC, USA and Sci Fi part of the same family. Buying all of the rights together gives NBCU more clout with studios and also provides the studios with a one-stop solution to selling pictures. More and more frequently, studios have been slicing the broadcast window to multiple cable and broadcast players to generate license fees that approach the once traditional 15 percent of domestic box office.

It is unclear how much NBCU paid Buena Vista for the rights to “National Treasure.” But based on the film’s box office take of $166 million to date (the film is still playing in theaters), a fee of $20 million to $25 million would be in the ballpark, according to knowledgeable sources.

Executives at Buena Vista and NBCU declined to comment.

Fox already buys some films for both its broadcast network and FX, its general entertainment cable network. As part of an output deal with Revolution Films, “xXx,” “13 Going on 30” and “America’s Sweethearts” will appear on both Fox and FX.

ABC has occasionally shared a film with ABC Family. CBS does not have a general-entertainment channel (MTV Networks’ Spike TV is aimed at a younger, more male demographic than CBS). The WB and Turner Broadcasting, both part of Time Warner, jointly bought the rights to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy from New Line, another Time Warner unit.

TV network acquisition executives said action-adventure films tend to attract solid audiences on broadcast and cable and that “National Treasure,” despite reviews that were mostly lukewarm, was one of relatively few films in that genre to succeed at the box office in the past year.

The PG-rated movie involves a a hunt for a massive treasure hidden by the Founding Fathers, with clues to its location hidden in national landmarks. The element of mystery, and of confluence between legend and technology, makes the film appropriate for Sci Fi, NBC and USA.