Net also gets exclusive cable rights to 'Beastmaster'

NEW YORK — Tribune Entertainment has sold the cable network rights for its hit syndicated action series “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda” to the Sci Fi Channel.

Sci Fi gets not only the 110 episodes of “Andromeda,” starting in March but also exclusive cable rights to a previous Tribune action series, “BeastMaster,” which amassed 66 hours during its syndication run from October 1999 through September 2002.

Tribune and Sci Fi declined to discuss license fees, but based on previous deals involving syndication-to-cable transactions, Sci Fi could end up paying a total of about $15 million. The Sci Fi cash is crucial to Tribune because revenues from the European market have softened in the last few years as production costs have gone up.

When “Andromeda” hits Sci Fi in March, the network will schedule each firstrun episode Friday at 9 p.m. within seven days of its play in weekend syndication.

In September, Sci Fi will start playing the reruns of the first four seasons as a vertical strip (taking up one whole night from 7 to midnight) and, just as important, will get a jump on the showing of each original, scheduling it eight days in advance of the show’s appearance in syndication.

Sci Fi has had success in the past with TV series that it shared in syndication, or with other networks. Examples include “Outer Limits,” which Sci Fi shared first with Showtime and later with TV stations in syndication, which got the episodes about six months after their Sci Fi play.

Another example is “Crossing Over With John Edward,” which generated so much industry comment after its Sci Fi debut in July 2000 that Universal TV Distribution took it into syndication for a simultaneous run in September 2001. The syndie life of “Crossing Over” ends in September.

Currently, the episodes of Sci Fi’s biggest hit, “Stargate: SG-1,” play in syndication months after they premiere on the network.

If “Andromeda,” starring Kevin Sorbo, continues beyond the 2004-05 season, Sci Fi has agreed to buy the cable rights to these additional 22 episodes.

Engineering the deal were Dick Askin, president and CEO of Tribune Entertainment, and Tom Vitale, senior VP of scheduling, acquisitions and planning for Sci Fi.

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