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Peacock struts, USA blinks over Tyson docu

The USA network and NBC sparred this weekend over the former’s plans to air the two-hour docu “Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson” one day after NBC’s scheduled airing during the February sweeps.

It seems NBC is going to get its way. After saying initially it would stick with its announced date– despite NBC’s pronouncement that the proximity of USA’s scheduling was “not satisfactory”–the cable web over the weekend was looking to move the telecast to a later date.

“My inclination is to do whatever I can to help (NBC),” Dave Kenin, exec VP of programming for USA Networks, said yesterday. “They are our collaborator in this. We couldn’t do it without them. It all happened in the last couple of days and we’re trying to find the right date.”

NBC is slated to run the bio of the former boxing champion Feb. 12; USA–which acquired the second and third windows on the pic from TriStar TV–planned to run it on Feb. 13 and 14. Contractually, the cabler is allowed to run the docu any time after NBC’s telecast.

Film is produced by Barbara Kopple, Oscar winner for two dox, 1977’s “Harlan County, U.S.A.” and 1989’s “American Dream.”

NBC had planned to trumpet the project at last Friday morning’s session at the TV Critics Assn. tour. However, USA apparently angered NBC by circulating news of its deal to the nation’s TV critics before NBC’s conference.

“NBC’s important to us; we want NBC to be a collaborator,” Kenin said last week. “NBC thinks we’re crowding them in some way.”

NBC reps were quick to point out that if it were not for their goodwill, USA would not have acquired five unaired episodes of Norman Lear’s canceled NBC sitcom “The Powers That Be.”

NBC waived exclusivity in regard to the episodes on a one-time-only basis, the network said, because of the importance to Lear that the political comedy be seen. TriStar and Columbia Pictures TV, which produced “Powers” in association with Lear and Castle Rock, are units of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Tyson deal also follows USA’s pact with TriStar TV that gave USA post-broadcast rights to “Casualties of Love: The ‘Long Island Lolita’ Story,” four days after the telefilm aired on CBS, while underscoring the potential stress in such program-sharing pacts.

As with “Casualties” (one of the Amy Fisher movies), USA will air the Tyson docu once in prime time (Feb. 13) and during the afternoon (Feb. 14). USA’s rights to the project expire after those telecasts.

By doing deals in this manner, USA gains access to films that traditionally would not have been available until years later.

Though the acquisition cost may be slightly higher than the typical off-network telefilm, USA is able to piggyback off interest for a pic’s network run without dramatically affecting the repeat value for the web involved.

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