FX gets ‘Ghost Rider’ rights

Total license fee will be in the low $30 millions

FX is cornering the market on TV rights to comicbook pics.

The cabler has followed its pickup of Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man 3” last week with a deal for five movies from Sony, led by the Nicolas Cage hit “Ghost Rider,” an adaptation of the Marvel comic.

In the last few years FX has also locked up superhero movies including “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Superman Returns” and “Batman Begins.”

FX will pay Sony a total license fee in the low $30 millions for a four-year exclusive window to “Ghost Rider” and the Sandra Bullock thriller “Premonition,” and a two-year exclusive on “Underworld: Evolution” and “The Grudge 2.” For a fifth Sony title, the 2006 remake of “When a Stranger Calls,” FX gets a two-year window after TNT plays the first batch of runs. FX and Sony declined to comment on the “Ghost Rider” deal.

All of the Sony movies will receive their pay TV premieres on Starz in advance of their debut on FX, which gets “Underworld” and “Grudge” early in 2009, “Ghost Rider” in summer ’09 and “Premonition” in fall ’09. FX won’t get “Stranger” until 2010, after TNT harvests its runs. FX also draws video-on-demand rights to the movies during part of its license agreement.

With “Ghost Rider” and “Premonition,” Sony has negotiated the right to carve out a window within FX’s four-year term to sell a run or two to a broadcast network.

Loading up on movies is a vital ingredient in FX’s programming strategy, which revolves around providing high-visibility lead-ins to its lineup of scripted original series. The originals roster ballooned to a cable-network-record seven this week when FX gave sophomore-season renewals to “Dirt” and “The Riches” and committed to “Damages,” a legal murder-mystery drama starring Glenn Close. Those titles join an existing roster of “The Shield,” “Rescue Me,” “Nip/Tuck” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

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