Lucas ignites TV wars

Webheads ready to reach for 'Stars'

NEW YORK — Lucasfilm would like to use “Star Wars” to ignite bid wars.

Led by “Revenge of the Sith,” all six “Star Wars” movies are rocketing into the broadcast and cable marketplace, and the winning bidder could easily end up paying in the neighborhood of $50 million.

Potential network buyers got word of Lucasfilm’s strategy in the form of a letter inviting them to start doing the math on how much they may be willing to spend to obtain the rights to the most lucrative franchise in movie history.

Network execs, who declined to comment because they didn’t want to tip their hand for competitive reasons, said the most valuable title in the package is “Revenge of the Sith” because they’d be able to start playing it as early as early as summer 2008, following the movie’s exclusive pay TV run on HBO.

The two previous titles in the “Star Wars” prequel series, “Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “The Phantom Menace” (1999), would also accelerate the buying fever because, except for HBO, they’ve run only on the Fox Network, which got them as part of the deal engineered by 20th Century Fox for the theatrical release.

But the first three movies in the series — “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983) — have had many runs on broadcast and cable, including heavy play on the Sci Fi Channel and the USA Network, so their license fees would fall well below those of their three successors.

The likely bidders for the six “Star Wars” movies include NBC Universal on behalf of Sci Fi Channel, USA and NBC; News Corp., for Fox and FX; Viacom, for Spike, CBS and UPN; Turner Broadcasting, for TNT, TBS and the WB; and Walt Disney, for ABC and ABC Family.

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