Warner Bros. TV Reaches Digital Agreement on New Shows with ABC, NBC

Sep 12, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Warner Bros. Television Group has reached digital distribution agreements with ABC and NBC for one debuting 2006-07 series on each network, a first for a major studio and networks not aligned under the same media conglomerate.

The deal, announced Tuesday, gives NBC the rights and 100 percent of the revenues from streaming the new Warner Bros. Television drama “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” on NBC-branded sites, NBC affiliate sites or third party-branded sites, as well as video-on-demand, subscription VOD (through cable, telephone company and satellite) and wireless platforms. Warner Bros. has the rights and will receive 100 percent of the revenues to permanent downloads of episodes on electronic retail platforms (such as iTunes, Amazon and AOL) after initial broadcast on the network. Rights are assured through the 2006-07 broadcast season.

In a similar deal, ABC has the ability to distribute Warner Bros.’ upcoming drama “The Nine” as a non-permanent offering, which includes streaming episodes online and retaining the advertising revenue generated on the ABC.com broadband player. Warner Bros. will offer permanent, commercial-free digital downloads of “The Nine” episodes the day after they air on ABC. Both the NBC and ABC deals involve only a single new Warner Bros. show on each broadcaster.

Warner Bros.’ new comedy “Twenty Good Years” on NBC and its drama “Men in Trees” on ABC are not covered under the deal.

The networks announced their deals in separate statements.

While a network like ABC has been able to easily offer for a fee shows that its corporate parent The Walt Disney Co. owns outright through its studio Touchstone Television on Web sites, the networks have had to make agreements for ABC shows they don’t own in order to offer them digitally.

Warner Bros. TV Group has been trying to secure a deal that would offer an equitable split on digital platform revenues between itself and its network partners. Though a part owner in The CW, Warner Bros. is considered the largest studio unaligned with a broadcast network, and one of the top outside suppliers to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Earlier this summer all the networks and Warner Bros. were far apart on closing a digital deal for the studio’s new shows, but over the past few weeks ABC and NBC were able to come to an agreement with the studio on a single new series for the season.

“This network and our studio partners have so much to gain if we use the emerging digital markets wisely,” NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker said in a statement. “This deal is an excellent example of how a network and a studio can work together to give a great new series like ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ every advantage that digital distribution has to offer.”

The deal “should provide invaluable insight as we move forward building our digital business,” Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group, said in ABC’s own announcement.

“While it is clearly in all of our best interests for ‘Studio 60’ to be successful on Mondays at 10 p.m., this deal takes a big step towards enabling our viewers to sample and even own episodes of this series on multiple platforms,” said Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, in NBC’s statement.