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ABC, Warner Bros. Television Reach Deal on 'Court' Rights

November 01, 2001|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ABC and Warner Bros. Television have struck a novel deal on "The Court," a new series starring Sally Field, establishing an elaborate structure governing how to compensate studios and talent for secondary telecasts on cable.

Both firms said the deal--granting ABC extended rights to the series in addition to the cable run--provides a template for broadcasters as they seek to defray rising production costs by televising a program on multiple channels.

ABC, NBC and Fox have tried such double runs to offset a downturn in ad revenue, but writers and performers have voiced concern that these instant reruns undermine a program's long-term value and thus future profits.

"We've crafted a solution that hits a lot of the issues that were addressed in the guild negotiations in May," said Warner Bros. Executive Vice President Bruce Rosenblum.

ABC--which recently acquired the Fox Family Channel--can repeat "The Court" on cable within eight days of its initial network broadcast. The agreement also spells out incremental payment for those showings and the program's possible sale into syndication.

ABC approached Warner Bros., wanting "ER" producer Carol Flint to oversee "The Court," which stars Field as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. The AOL Time Warner unit countered by asking for control of the project, which was to be produced by Touchstone Television--like ABC, part of Walt Disney Co.

The series will now be under the aegis of Flint and John Wells, producer of "ER" and "The West Wing."

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