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ProSieben inks pact with MGM

Deal to defray studio's upfront TV costs

BERLIN — MGM has inked a major free-TV programming deal with German broadcaster ProSieben that promises to bring a quick influx of much-needed cash to the ailing studio.

Overall, the two-year pact is said to be worth about $40 million to MGM. The studio received an undisclosed sum upon signing the deal, which has been in the works for some time. MGM Intl. Television Distribution is expected to announce similar deals with broadcasters in the U.K. and Italy in the near future.

The ProSieben agreement, effective immediately, covers a specific batch of theatrical releases, TV series and made-fors, all of which will bow this year or next. It also covers about 40 film titles from the MGM-United Artists library, but rights to MGM’s TV library are still tied up in existing agreements.

The deal does not currently include a co-production component, but ProSieben chairman Dr. Georg Kofler indicated in announcing the agreement that there may be a deeper partnership between the two down the line.

Cash-strapped MGM has been aggressively seeking financial partners to help shoulder the burden of upfront TV production costs.

Co-production arrangements are increasingly common in international output deals for the U.S. majors. Universal TV has a wide-ranging co-production deal with German broadcaster RTL as part of an output deal struck in 1996.

First time

Jim Griffiths, prexy of MGM Intl. TV, said the pact with ProSieben marked the first time MGM had done a direct deal with a German broadcaster, as opposed to selling product through a German distrib. Previously, MGM’s properties had been repped by programming giant Tele-Munchen, whose owners also have financial interests in ProSieben.

“This deal represents record pricing for us in Germany,” Griffiths said.

The pact gives ProSieben the free-TV rights to recent and upcoming MGM and United Artists pics such as “The Man in the Iron Mask,” the next James Bond film, the Robert DeNiro starrer “Ronin,” “At First Sight” and “Carrie II.”

On the TV side, the deal covers MGM’s actioner for CBS, “The Magnificent Seven,” the remake of “Flipper” and the animated “RoboCop.” It also covers 12 made-fors, including the well-received remake of the 1974 pic “Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.”

The MGM acquisitions will strengthen ProSieben’s position as Germany’s favorite feature film channel, ProSieben chairman Kofler said. “We strongly hope to continue the cooperation in the future and jointly develop new projects.”

Kirch connection

As a fiction-oriented network aimed at young adults, ProSieben is one of the biggest buyers of U.S. programming in German television. The web acquires most of its Hollywood product through German rights dealers — especially media mogul Leo Kirch, father of ProSieben shareholder Thomas Kirch.

ProSieben also signed an output deal last year with DreamWorks.

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