Turner library deal may lead to pay net for MGM

NEW YORK — MGM and Turner Broadcasting have reworked a movie-library deal covering 800 United Artists titles that could lead to MGM’s setting up an all-movie pay TV network as early as September 2000.

In an announcement, Alex Yemenidjian, chairman and CEO of MGM, said the Lion will gain immediate exclusive rights to 200 United Artists movies whose 10-year license term has ended at Turner’s TBS and TNT.

For the remaining 600 movies, MGM also negotiated the right to use them simultaneously with their play on Turner’s networks between September 2000 and late 2009. But MGM would have to set up one or more owned-and-operated cable nets to gain access to the 600 titles — MGM couldn’t sell them to a competing cable network or to a pay TV network or broadcast TV station.

Spokesmen for MGM and Turner declined to comment further on the deal, but one insider said that MGM made some additional concessions to Turner, allowing it to double the number of runs of the 600 titles over the next 10 years and to add a third Turner network, Turner Classic Movies, to the deal.

Another source said the renegotiated movie deal allows MGM to enter into an arrangement with Chuck Dolan’s Rainbow Programming Services or with John Malone’s Encore Media to get help in convincing cable operators to buy a new pay TV movie web that would run under the MGM banner.

The Lion’s web

But these arrangements, whether with Rainbow or Encore, would have to result in MGM’s maintaining majority ownership over the new pay network. MGM would also have to administer the web, drawing on Rainbow or Encore only for their relationships with cable operators.

The 600 titles include the cream of the United Artists library, titles such as “West Side Story,” “Annie Hall,” “Moonstruck,” “The Magnificent Seven” and the “Rocky” and “Pink Panther” series.

MGM owns more than 5,000 movies, ranging from “Dances With Wolves,” “Platoon” and “Silence of the Lambs” to classic Samuel Goldwyn titles like “Best Years of Our Lives,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Guys & Dolls.”

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