Deal covers studio's 34 films, stretches out for 10 years

NEW YORK — DreamWorks has engineered a deal that will funnel its theatrical film library to Tribune Entertainment for exclusive TV syndication.

Tribune will clear TV stations in the U.S. and sell national advertising time to all 34 of the movies DreamWorks has produced, from its first release — “The Peacemaker,” with George Clooney, in September 1997 — through last year’s “Road to Perdition” with Tom Hanks.

Pics in the deal include “Saving Private Ryan,” “Minority Report,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Gladiator,” “Shrek,” American Beauty” and “What Lies Beneath.”

All 22 of the Tribune-owned TV stations are already onboard, including WPIX New York and KTLA Los Angeles.

Dick Askin, president-CEO of Tribune Entertainment, said the deal will stretch out for 10 years, with the first pics hitting the syndication marketplace in fall 2006.

Ad time instead of cash

TV stations agreeing to take the titles, Askin said, will pay no cash. Instead, Tribune will harvest its revenues by carving out 14 commercial minutes within each two-hour time period to sell to national advertisers. Stations get 14 minutes to sell locally. For a movie that fills a three-hour timeslot, Tribune extracts 21 commercial minutes within each run, leaving 21 minutes for the stations.

Stations get two plays of each of the titles for a specific predetermined period of about a month. That period will occur between the network window, which is shared by ABC and Turner Broadcasting’s TBS/TNT, and the second HBO window.

A few years later, Tribune will come back with a second one-month syndicated window for each of the DreamWorks titles, on the same terms.

Long windows shut

These short barter windows are a big departure from the way movies used to get sold to TV stations, said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for the Katz TV Group, a station consultancy. In the past, the major studios would sell packages of 20 or more movies to TV stations, which would tie them up for multiple runs as part of contracts lasting as long as five years.

Those movie packages have mostly vanished over the last 15 years or so as TV stations allied themselves with, first, the Fox network and then with the WB and UPN, which took over the primetime slots that once harbored movies, programming them instead with original series.

Askin said he hopes Tribune’s contract for the movies will lead to other DreamWorks-produced ventures, such as a firstrun action series exclusive to syndication that Tribune would distribute and sell to advertisers.

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