Cabler conjures offnet rights from Par TV

NEW YORK — TNT has acquired off-network rights to up to eight seasons of “Charmed” from Paramount Television for $600,000 an episode, plus an additional $150,000 per episode for rights to a second-run window.

The cable net also has acquired the rights to air an immediate second run of “Charmed” within a week of its original airing on the WB (Daily Variety, 5/14), beginning in September.

TNT declined to comment on financial details of the deal.

Separately, TNT has axed “Breaking News” before it even got on the air. The original series from sister network New Line Television was scheduled to premiere next month. Thirteen episodes of the series about a 24-hour news network have already been shot. It’s unclear whether the series will find a home elsewhere.

TNT plans to strip the off-net episodes of “Charmed” in early fringe, beginning in fall ’02. Paramount will put the show into weekend syndication simultaneously.

Self-contained is good

“Charmed” appealed to TNT partially because it is self-contained and not serialized. Also, it will help the cabler attract younger women.

“To go younger and attract more women is great for us,” said TNT general manager Steve Koonin.

The WB recently finalized a three-year renewal deal for “Charmed,” which enters its fourth season in September sans star Shannen Doherty. It runs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on WB. TNT wouldn’t be able to air the second run of the show until 10 p.m.

Since assuming oversight of both outlets earlier this year, Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner has made it a priority to share programming between the WB and the Turner nets. The dual window allows the WB to more quickly cover a show’s production costs. The WB also could share rookie skein “Smallville,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Felicity” with TNT.

TNT could develop an original series with the WB, which they would then share. “I wouldn’t rule out any possibilities,” said TNT prexy of original programming Bob DeBitetto. “We’re going to look at every smart opportunity to leverage the two brands.”

‘Breaking News’ broke

As for “Breaking News,” DeBitetto said it came down to “a judgment call. It was about allocating our resources in the best way that would serve the network. We would have had to spend an enormous amount of time and millions of dollars to craft and execute a marketing campaign.”

TNT recently pulled the plug on “Bull,” its most expensive original series, after airing 11 episodes. An additional 11 original episodes of the series about Wall Street traders have been shot but won’t air. TNT was considering bringing the show back in the event of a writers or actors strike. “Bull” managed only lackluster Nielsens, partly because it made its debut last summer just as the stock market was taking a turn for the worst.

The decision to greenlight “Bull” and “Breaking News” pre-dated the net’s current management and its association with the WB. “Primetime on TNT is very valuable time and ‘Breaking News’ would push something else out of that slot,” said DeBitetto, adding that, despite recent setbacks, TNT is moving ahead with its original series development.

“Original series on TNT are very much alive and well. We have a relatively active, healthy development schedule,” DeBitetto said.

TNT’s latest original series, “Witchblade,” premieres next month.

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