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Oxygen, Warner pact in net’s biggest deal

Net inks with studio for 21 pix including 'Oceans'

NEW YORK — Oxygen Media has engineered the biggest programming deal in its history, shelling out as much as $65 million for 21 theatrical movies from Warner Bros., including “Ocean’s Twelve” and the sequel to “Miss Congeniality” called “Armed & Fabulous.”

The deal includes a carveout that will allow Warner Bros. Domestic Cable to find a second cable network buyer within the five-year broadcast window; additionally, a second carveout could get many of the titles to a broadcast network for a single primetime run after a batch of cable plays.

The $65 million license fee is only a loose estimate because the total is based on a percentage of domestic box office, and some of the titles have not even reached U.S. theaters yet. These titles include “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera,” Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” and four unidentified movies that won’t get released until later in 2005 and in 2006.

“These movies will be a great platform for our original series,” said Oxygen programming prexy Debby Beece. The network will use the premiere of the most visible pictures as primetime lead-ins to episodes of new series, hoping to drive viewers to the fledgling shows.

Oxygen has bought two-year license terms for the 21 movies, getting the first plays on about half of the titles, starting with Sandra Bullock starrer “Murder by Numbers” in February. The second cabler will also get two years when Warner Bros. eventually does the deal. The expectation is that Warner’ sister networks TNT and TBS will snap up at least some of the titles in the Oxygen package.

Among the other movies in the deal are “Two Weeks Notice,” “Alex & Emma,” “Raising Helen,” “Catwoman,” “New York Minute,” “A Cinderella Story,” “What a Girl Wants” and “Taking Lives.”

It’s the first major movie inventory deal in almost two years for Eric Frankel, who is also talking to other cablers about the rights to such titles as “Terminator 3” and the two “Matrix” sequels. Frankel is seeking to sell Warners’ movies in bulk to cable networks that would cherrypick the titles to fit their audience profiles.

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