Fox comedy lands at cable network

Twentieth Century Fox has landed its first major network window deal for “Borat,” harvesting $11 million from USA Network for a license term just shy of five years.

The $11 million fee is relatively low for a movie that chalked up $128 million in U.S. theaters, but there were not a lot of cable-network bidders for “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” because of the outrageous content. USA and 20th declined to comment on the deal.

USA will be able to start running the movie in April 2009 and it’ll have to edit some scenes for primetime. But, for example, the network will be able to pixilate private parts in the nude wrestling scene and cut the volume on any unacceptable language.

So many young males will be attracted to USA’s carriage of “Borat” that the network is convinced that, even though many mainstream advertisers will boycott the cablecast, there’ll be others standing in line to reach 18- to 34-year-old men, a demographic that Madison Avenue pays a premium for.

USA’s goal is to employ a “three-peat” strategy for “Borat,” scheduling it three nights in succession (Friday to Sunday) in early April ’09 and turning it into a special TV event.

The network is discussing plans to approach Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays Borat, and ask him to introduce the movie on air. Twentieth is preparing to supply some unused footage to flesh out a two-hour timeslot for the movie, whose running time is only 83 minutes.

USA is further exploring the purchase of the 12 half-hours of “Da Ali G Show,” which Cohen produced for HBO and for Channel 4 in England in 2003 and 2004. Channel 4 owns six of the episodes, and HBO owns the other six. Channel 4 also owns six “Ali G” episodes produced in 2000 but never aired in the U.S. Some of the segments in those episodes featured an early incarnation of the “Borat” character.

USA’s sister company Focus Features also owns distribution rights to the 2002 theatrical movie “Ali G Indahouse,” starring Baron Cohen. Unless another network owns the TV rights, USA would also explore picking up some runs of “Indahouse.”

Twentieth has the right to sell a window within the boundaries of USA’s contract to another cable network. Comedy Central would be the most likely bidder.

If a lawsuit causes “Borat” to be altered in some way, USA has the right to back out of the deal.

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