New Line has agreed to send an international man of mystery to the Sci Fi Channel to help launch a second night of original series, and he doesn’t come from England.
Sci Fi has acquired action hour “Matthew Blackheart: Monster Smasher” — which had been on the market for a broadcast syndication debut this fall — from New Line Television to begin airing early next year.
The show features a thawed WWII hero whose mission is to save the world from an evil manufacturer of monsters. Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon”) will exec produce, with Robert Engels (“Twin Peaks”) producing.
In an unusual turn, New Line, in order to hand over the show to Sci Fi exclusively, stopped selling the show to broadcasters even though it already had deals with stations representing coverage of more than 65% of the country.
“Our syndie sales team did a great job clearing the show, but we don’t have the leverage of a station group and didn’t have a significant group deal … or some of the important markets, like New York and Philadelphia, yet,” said David Spiegelman, exec VP of domestic TV distribution for New Line TV. “While everyone here is thrilled with the Sci Fi deal, it was a gut-wrenching decision as far as disappointing the stations.”
New Line has domestic distribution rights to “Blackheart,” produced by Telescene Film Group.
Sci Fi hasn’t decided on which night “Blackheart” will land, but exec VP and general manager Bonnie Hammer said she is leaning toward Mondays.
The USA Networks cabler unveiled its plans for “Blackheart” at an upfront presentation for advertisers on Thursday night in New York.
Sci Fi also announced that it has acquired the rights to the contemporary vampire miniseries “Ultraviolet” from the U.K.’s World Film Prods. Three-parter will air on consecutive nights beginning July 31.
Along with sister net USA Network, Sci Fi will broadcast the New York City Village Halloween Parade live, marking the first time that the two nets will mount a joint simulcast.
Sci Fi will introduce “Robodeath” — a futuristic sporting event that pits robots against each other in arena battles — during the first quarter of 2001 in a one-hour special. Cabler is also planning to produce a two-hour special “Sci Fi Awards” kudocast for 2001.
After its successful “Curse of the Blair Witch” documentary, Sci Fi is working with Artisan to create “Blair Witch 2: Set Re-port,” a one-hour movie special timed to the release of “Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows” in October.
Meanwhile, USA Network included “WWF Wrestling” in its presentation, though the net is battling with World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and the soon-to-merge Viacom and CBS over the rights to air WWF programming.
“While we are deep in the middle of our court situation, we are calmly confident that (WWF wrestling) will remain on the USA schedule,” Steven Chao, president of USA Cable, told Daily Variety.
But Chao has a backup plan. “We’re planning to add two hours on Wednesday nights, so in terms of our inventory, we are net even were we to lose the WWF,” he said. USA currently has five pilots vying for pickups.
USA also unveiled a development slate of original movies, including “The Darkling,” a thriller about a man (F. Murray Abra-ham) who makes a deal with an ancient demon, and “Passions of Dracula,” based on the Romanian ruler who inspired the Dracula myth.