USA Net snaps up 3 pix from U

Cabler kicks out $15 mil for b'cast rights

NEW YORK — The USA Network has bought the exclusive broadcast window to three Universal theatricals: “The Jackal,” “For Richer or Poorer” and “Mercury Rising.”

Although USA and Universal representatives declined to comment on the deal, one source close to the negotiations says the pact represents a strong commitment by USA under Barry Diller, who took over the network late last year, to continue the policy of aggressively seeking the first broadcast window to theatricals.

The most recent example of how these movies can pull in big audiences by cable standards is the Aug. 16 run of Michael Douglas starrer “The American President” on TBS, which harvested a 6.6 rating in cable homes on its first telecast, a record Nielsen for a cable premiere of a theatrical. The second run of “President” that same night chalked up another gaudy 4.1 rating in cable homes.

On July 19, USA logged a strong 3.6 cable rating for its premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Casino,” which provided a solid lead-in to the bows of USA’s new summer action series “The Net” and “Sins of the City.” TBS collected a 6.4 cable rating when it ran “Dumb & Dumber” in the network window on Dec. 14, 1997.

Sources say USA will pony up about $6 million to get the full four-year broadcast window for “Jackal,” which wound up with a domestic gross of $54.9 million. The network will pay roughly $4.5 million apiece for “Mercury Rising” (which grossed $32.9 million in U.S. theaters) and “For Richer or Poorer” (a $31.6 million domestic gross).

Some of the theatrical movies USA bought first broadcast windows to under the previous regime of Kay Koplovitz, USA’s chairwoman, and Rod Perth, USA’s president of programming, included “Private Parts,” “Cop Land,” “The Usual Suspects,” “The Remains of the Day,” “Mimic,” “Nothing to Lose,” “The Age of Innocence” and “The Professional.”

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