2 cablers join forces to buy ‘X-Files’ reruns

The deal is out there

Reruns of Twentieth TV’s “The X-Files” are journeying from their current cable home at FX to a shared window between the Sci Fi Channel and TNT, which together will pony up a license fee of about $111 million for an eight-year term, starting this October.

Rumors of the negotiations have circulated throughout the industry over the past few months. But talks dragged on because the deal is both complicated and unprecedented: Never before have two cable networks owned by different media congloms — Sci Fi by Vivendi Universal and TNT by AOL Time Warner — joined forces to buy reruns of a series as highly visible as “The X-Files.”

The parties to the deal still haven’t made any official “X-Files” announcement. Word leaked out Tuesdaywhen reporters brought it up during a press briefing by Sci Fi called to ballyhoo its future programming.

In a Q&A, Bonnie Hammer, president of Sci Fi, would say only that “we’re close to closing a deal.”

Sci Fi will likely pay more of the license fee than TNT because it will get the exclusive right to play “X-Files” in primetime, which in cable means Monday through Friday from 7 to 11 p.m.

Sci Fi will pay about $325,000 an episode for the series’ 202 hours and TNT will shell out $225,000 per. The Fox Network plans to cancel original episodes of “X-Files” after this season, the show’s ninth.

In addition to primetime, Sci Fi will also get a second daily run, Monday through Friday, in a fringe time period. TNT gets first crack at a non-primetime slot, and will also be able to take two daily runs, Monday through Friday.

For the first three years of the eight-year license term, 20th TV has the right to continue signing renewal deals with TV stations for double-run weekend play of “X-Files” in off-network syndication, where the reruns continue to score solid ratings.

As part of the deal for “X-Files,” Sci Fi has agreed to pay a license fee of $125,000 an episode to 20th TV for exclusive rights to “Roswell,” whose reruns will start on the network next January. During its primetime run on the WB and UPN, “Roswell,” now in its last season, will have built up 62 hourlong episodes.

“X-Files” reruns gave a powerful boost to FX when the struggling network first began running them multiple times each day in 1997. But over the years, “X-Files” reruns have softened, with FX finally taking them off the primetime schedule and relegating them to 6 p.m.

Sci Fi is planning a massive “X-Files” promotional campaign this fall that it hopes will pump fresh life into the series and boost the channel into a slot as one of the 10 highest-rated cable networks in primetime.

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