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ABC shares U hits with USA

'Mummy,' 'Furious' joint license could cost $50 mil

NEW YORK — Universal Pictures has sold two of its summer hits, “The Mummy Returns” and “The Fast and the Furious,” to ABC and the USA network in a shared window.

The joint license fee for “Mummy” and “Furious” could climb as high as $50 million, depending on the final domestic box office for the pictures.

ABC will have to pony up more than 50% of the total because it will get the first three runs of each pic in an exclusive 18-month window. Following the ABC runs, the two make their way to USA for multiple runs over the final 44 months of the shared-network window contract.

Reps for U and the two nets said “Mummy Returns” will get to ABC in time for the November 2003 sweeps, with “Furious” becoming available in January 2004.

The “Furious” part of the deal is unusual because two weeks ago, USA said it had bought the exclusive five-year network window to “Furious,” with no broadcast network as a partner (Daily Variety, July 19).

But one source said that when ABC showed an interest in getting some runs of “Furious” along with “Mummy,” USA willingly surrendered exclusivity to save money.

Like all of the general entertainment nets, USA is getting hammered by advertisers in the upfront marketplace, being forced to give discounts as high as 25% in some instances to keep the ad dollars flowing in for the 2001-02 season. These discounts are putting pressure on programming execs to save money on movie purchases as well as on original movies and series.

A gloomy advertising climate is one of the reasons it took Universal an unusually long time — 12 weeks — to find buyers for “Mummy,” which has racked up $201 million in U.S. theaters. It’s the second-biggest grossing summer 2001 pic to date, behind “Shrek.”

USA’s toughest cable competitor, Turner Broadcasting’s TBS/TNT, bought the exclusive network window to the first “Mummy” (1999) from U.

USA picked up a third title from Universal, “Head Over Heels,” a romantic comedy starring Monica Potter and Freddie Prinze Jr. That pic grossed a modest $10.4 million in U.S. theaters earlier this year and will cost USA $1 million-$1.5 million in license fees.

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