Bored Oz auds turn off H’wood pics

Mott: DVD, pay TV drives pix price down for terrestrial webs

SYDNEY — The Hollywood studios will have to accept lower license fees if they want to sell theatrical films to Australian terrestrial broadcasters. That’s the blunt warning from David Mott, general manager of network programming at the Ten web.

Mott believes Ten and at least one other net will stio running U.S. movies on Sunday nights — long a mainstay of Oz programming — within one to two years, replacing them with U.S. and local series and Oz telepics.

Heavy exposure of Hollywood films on DVD and pay TV means they lose much of their value by the time they are available to terrestrial webs, three years after their theatrical preems, Mott says.

That point was starkly illustrated, to Ten’s cost, when its first run of “Gladiator” was beaten by Aussie pic “Looking for Alibrandi” on Seven.

Ten is unlikely to renew its output deal with Sony after it expires at the end of this year because the studio’s movies are the most expensive of all majors in this territory and it produces few TV series, Mott declares.

“We will still buy Hollywood movies, but at nothing like the prices we have been paying,” he says, suggesting a reasonable fee would be 8%-9% of a film’s Australian B.O. gross.

In May, Ten signed a pact with Paramount securing all its new series available from the L.A. Screenings onward —- but not movies. The deal includes “Navy CIS,” Mott says, rejecting Seven’s claims it should get the show because it’s a kind of sequel to “JAG,” which Seven runs.

The third series of “Big Brother” along with “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Becker” and local drama “The Secret Life of Us” helped Ten clinch the 12th consecutive win in its core 16-39 demo in the week ending July 19.

The “Big Brother” finale, which aired July 21, pulled 2.27 million viewers and easily won its timeslot with a 50.6 share. Ten has ordered a fourth season from producer Southern Star Endemol for 2004.

The web was delighted with “Brother’s” ratings and its ability to hook advertisers who wanted sponsorships and other in-program associations, not just spot buys. But Ten CEO John McAlpine has acknowledged it wasn’t profitable, blaming bids from Nine that jacked up the license fee after the first series.

Ten paid a reported A$25 million ($16.2 million) for the third season; Mott says there is no price hike for the next series.

Ten hopes to maintain momentum with “Australian Idol,” which debuted July 27 and will run to 17 episodes. The Oz format produced by Grundy/Fremantle Media differs from “American Idol” in that the focus will switch to live performances much earlier to set it apart from previous hit “Popstars.”

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