Net may offer third run of series to owned and affiliated TV stations

NEW YORK — The FX cable channel will pay $150,000 an episode to its sister Fox Network for the right to repeat each hour of the new primetime series “24” within the same week of its broadcast run.

That’s the word from production sources, who say that FX has finally concluded the long-rumored deal with 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV, the producers of “24,” for a second run of the series.

Fox TV Entertainment declined to comment on the deal, which could be officially announced early this week. But sources say FX will be able to run “24” at 10 p.m., giving the network a potential major advantage over current same-week repeats such as USA Network’s second run of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and Lifetime’s of ABC’s “Once & Again,” both of which are getting less-than-stellar ratings at 11 p.m. Television watching in general drops off dramatically at that hour.

Sunday promos

FX hasn’t locked in the exact night for its extra run of “24,” but one blueprint puts it on Monday at 10, six days after Fox premieres the show in its regular Tuesdays at 9 timeslot. That strategy would allow the Fox Network to promote the two weekly runs of “24” during its high-rated Sunday night block (led by “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files”). The promos would tout the Tuesday run on Fox, as well as the Monday run on FX for viewers who missed “24” the previous Tuesday.

Series focuses on a government agent, played by Kiefer Sutherland, who has 24 hours to stop an assassination attempt on a candidate for president of the U.S. (Dennis Haysbert). The gimmick is that the 24 episodes take place in real time, fleshed out with multiple subplots, as Sutherland searches for clues that will uncover the murder scheme.

Fox’s worry is that if viewers miss one of the episodes on Fox, they might not be inclined to watch the next one, figuring they won’t be able to catch up.

Third run possible

Sandy Grushow, chairman of the Fox TV Entertainment Group, said earlier this month that Fox might even offer a third run of “24” within the week to the network’s owned and affiliated TV stations.

A spokeswoman for Twentieth TV, which would distribute that third run to the stations, said talks are going on about the extra play, but the parties haven’t signed any contracts.

Series won’t begin on Fox until Oct. 30 as the network has scheduled lots of primetime postseason baseball, including the World Series, throughout the month of October and doesn’t want to preempt “24,” even for one week.

Fox and Imagine are pushing for the immediate extra runs because, even if “24” becomes a hit on Fox, it may not be able to get any big bucks deals in future rerun syndication because the episodes are so closely linked to each other.

As a general rule, reruns of TV series with subplots that spin out over multiple episodes fair poorly in the ratings compared to self-contained hours like “Law & Order.”

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