Cabler contracts for non-ABC produced drama

The sands of the hourglass will soon begin flowing on SoapNet.

In a landmark multiyear deal, the sudser web has pacted with Sony Pictures Television for same-day repurposing rights to NBC’s top-rated “Days of Our Lives.” Agreement marks the first time the Disney-owned cabler has won the right to air an existing daytime drama not produced by sister net ABC.

Both Sony and SoapNet declined to discuss terms of the deal, but industry insiders peg the value at mid-seven figures per year.

Starting March 15, “Days” will air weeknights at 7, leading into SoapNet’s block of ABC sudsers. Cabler will air a five-episode marathon of the previous week’s episodes of “Days” on Sundays.

Sony inked a new five-year license fee deal for “Days” with NBC last spring (Daily Variety, June 3). Sudser is the No. 1 daytime drama with women 18-34.

Coup for net

SoapNet general manager Deborah Blackwell said it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of landing “Days.”

“This will be transformational for our network,” she said. “It’s something we’ve wanted and worked for during the entire life of the network. Our big idea with the network was to serve the whole world of soaps, and this really gives us a way to invite the bigger daytime audience to SoapNet.”

In addition to opening up SoapNet’s lineup to non-ABC soaps, pact also seems to put to rest any lingering ill will between Sony and Disney over the launch of SoapNet. Before SoapNet signed on, Sony had mulled its own all-suds cabler; there were also rumblings that the two sides had talked about joining forces for a joint channel.

Once it got the right to repurpose “Days,” Sony talked to several other cablers about the show before making a deal with SoapNet. Sony Pictures Television prexy Steve Mosko said the channel’s promo power and built-in fan base ultimately proved to be the deciding factor in the sale.

‘Platform for soaps’

“What SoapNet provides is a really phenomenal platform for soaps,” he said. “They’re cheerleaders for daytime serials, and that’s appealing. It can only help us grow the brand.”

Blackwell said she plans to work closely with both Sony and NBC daytime chief Sheraton Kalouria to hype the arrival of “Days” on cable.

“We think we can offer the same promotional platform to them as we do to ABC,” she said. “It’s NBC whose franchise and shows we’re presenting, and we very much want to work with them to cross-promote the show and do whatever joint marketing presents itself. We’ll be open to whatever NBC feels helps them.”

Deal allows for limited access to Sony’s library of past “Days” episodes, which Blackwell hopes to use for stunts designed to promote the arrival of the sudser on cable.

While SoapNet has aired plenty of original programming about non-ABC soaps — and airs repeats of classic CBS primetime sudsers such as “Dallas” — the net’s primetime stars have always been Alphabet serials.

With the “Days” deal, it now seems clear Disney has the lock on the analog cable sudser space, while Sony’s successful SoapCity Web site has established a dominant presence in the digital world. Sony will continue to offer downloads of “Days” episodes on the site.

NBC may benefit

NBC figures to be an indirect beneficiary since SoapNet’s push on behalf of “Days” will introduce the serial to a new set of fans.

Mosko said the deal signals the continued strength of the “Days” franchise.

“This show’s a national treasure,” he said. “It’s been on the air for 38 years, and it’s a real tribute to Ken Corday and his team that it’s maintained the standards it has … and that it still has so much appeal to viewers 18-34.”

“Days” is produced by Corday Prods. in association with Sony, with Corday serving as exec producer. Jim Reilly returned to show this summer, introducing a serial killer storyline that helped the sudser soar to No. 1 among women 18-49 during the November sweeps.

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