FX sinks teeth into ‘Buffy’

$65 mil for first four-year term

The FX cabler has staked out “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” picking up rerun rights to the hit WB Network drama starting in 2001.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources pegged the pricetag for 20th Century Fox TV’s “Buffy” at about $650,000 per episode, or about $65 million over the course of the initial four-year to five-year license term.

As has become the norm with off-network sales of hour dramas, distrib Twentieth TV also will be able to sell weekend runs of the show to broadcast TV stations on an all-barter basis.

FX is expected to run the show Monday-Friday in primetime. The additional ad revenue from weekend runs on broadcast TV stations could boost “Buffy’s” per-episode take to nearly $1 million.

Sources said other cablers bidding for “Buffy” included USA Network, TNT, MTV and Lifetime. Although interest in the campy, vampire-chic series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar was high, Fox execs confirmed that FX’s offer outdistanced all others, which were believed to have been under the $600,000 threshold.

“This was a very aggressive bidding process, and FX gave us the highest bid,” Twentieth TV prexy Rick Jacobson said.

Fueling cablers’ demand for “Buffy” is the show’s solid delivery of teenagers and young adults, the demographic category most coveted by Madison Avenue.

In January, the WB tapped “Buffy” to lead its charge into a fourth night of programming. Since the move to Tuesdays, “Buffy’s” household ratings have climbed 29% to a 4.4 rating and 7 share. The series bowed on the WB in March.

Twentieth’s deal with FX puts “Buffy” in heady company.

TNT will end up paying about $800,000 an hour for Warner Bros.’ “ER,” starting in the fall. USA shelled out about $750,000 an hour for Columbia TriStar Distribution’s “Walker, Texas Ranger.” In 1996, FX ponied up a then-record $600,000 an hour for “The X-Files,” underscoring how much cable prices for off-net hours have skyrocketed the past two years.

(John Dempsey in New York contributed to this report.)

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