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Hungarian nets bidding big for U.S. programs

BUDAPEST — Two Magyar networks have signed multimillion-dollar program-buying deals in a bid to stock their schedule with competitive titles as commercial television takes root in this nascent market.

The Hungarian network RTL Klub, which went to air in October, is working out the details of a “more than $10 million” three-year output deal with Warner Bros. that fully comes into effect at the start of 1998.

By virtue of this exclusive agreement, the terrestrial RTL Klub (majority owned by Luxembourg-based broadcaster CLT-Ufa) will air firstrun WB feature films, some older pics from the Warners library that are new to this market, certain rerun theatrical releases, various series and animation including “lots of Spielberg titles,” among other fare.

RTL Klub expects blockbuster features like “Batman Forever,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Seven,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Ransom” will give it an edge in the programming arms race that is gripping Hungary. “These are great titles,” said a programming representative for RTL Klub. “They’ll be big hits in this market.”

RTL’s competition is hitting back. Two weeks ago, state broadcaster Magyar Televizio (MTV) purchased a package of 12 series from 20th Century Fox worth “approximately” $1.6 million. This two-year licensing deal — including series like “Nothing Sacred” and “The Visitor” — begins Jan. 1. The high pricetag of this agreement underscores the cutthroat competition and program inflation rocking this emerging broadcast market.

“MTV didn’t have a deal with a major studio,” said one local distributor. “So they were desperate to sign this deal with Fox. They’re paying a huge licensing fee.”

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