‘Armageddon’ to premiere on ABC

Pix pact may total $45 mil

ABC on Monday bought broadcast rights to the Touchstone film “Armageddon” for $25 million to $30 million, which is similar in scope to broadcast sales for “Godzilla” and rival disaster pic “Deep Impact.”

The deal also could include a package of movies, such as “The Horse Whisperer” and two smaller upcoming Disney films, with the entire package expected to fetch $40 million to $45 million, according to network sources.

It’s no surprise that Disney-owned ABC acquired rights to the Disney films, but in an unusual move, ABC is only guaranteed two runs of “Armageddon” because Disney is leaving open the possibility that another network will step up and buy the last three broadcast runs, splitting the $25 million to $30 million price with ABC.

Disney also is offering other networks the rest of the movie package along with the final three “Armageddon” runs.

If another web buys it, the deal will be similar to the arrangement Turner Broadcasting and CBS have struck, with Turner’s cabler TNT getting the first window on movies and CBS following. Striking such a deal with two broadcast networks might be unprecedented.

It’s unclear whether another network will want to pay for post-ABC windows because the picture by that time will no longer have its “event” status. If no one else does step up, ABC will get the standard five runs of “Armageddon” over six years and the rest of the movie package.

The fact that “Armageddon” is being sold before its weekend opening may mean Disney is hedging its bets on the box office take. Just in case, standard escalator clauses are built into the deal, increasing the price if the movie’s opening is enormous and its staying power strong. Sources say the price of “Armageddon” increases if the box office exceeds $125 million to $150 million.

Sources close to Buena Vista TV disputed the package and “Armageddon” prices as too low.