‘Again’ & again

'Once' is not enough for ABC, Lifetime

NEW YORK — In one of the shortest network to cable deals ever, ABC’s new Tuesday night drama “Once and Again” will get a rerun just three days later on cabler Lifetime.

The deal, which includes provisions that will make Lifetime the home of any syndie repeats of the drama, is a testament to Walt Disney Co.’s synergy. Disney’s Touchstone Television produces the hourlong drama for ABC and Disney owns half of Lifetime.

It’s also another example of the hottest trend in network television these days: repurposing.

In order to secure “Special Victims Unit” — the spinoff of NBC’s “Law & Order” — producer Studios USA insisted it be allowed to rerun the program on its cabler USA Network two weeks after its NBC premiere. And Fox is recycling old segs from the early seasons of “Ally McBeal” into a half-hour sitcom version of the drama/comedy.

The ABC-Lifetime deal ups the ante by repeating “Once and Again’s” premiere only three days later. Lifetime will televise the programs on Fridays at 11 p.m., starting tonight.

An even shorter window — two days — was attempted in the summer of 1991 when ABC broadcast “Hi Honey, I’m Home” and it repeated two nights later on cabler Nick at Nite. That experiment only lasted five weeks before the show was canceled by ABC.

Hit potential

ABC affils probably won’t like the deal, but they won’t be able to complain. Under the terms of a new affil agreement inked earlier this year, ABC can repurpose up to 25% of its primetime sked any way it sees fit.

Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff, Lifetime’s executive VP, entertainment, said that the women’s cabler will subsidize ABC’s license fee on the firstrun episodes. The price of Lifetime’s syndication window deal is predicated on a sliding scale depending on how well the show performs.

Tarnofsky-Ostroff said that Lifetime and ABC have not yet fully discussed how promotion of “Once and Again” will be handled on the two networks. However, the Lifetime exec said it was possible that Lifetime would promote its ABC run and vice versa.

“This deal should benefit Lifetime as well as benefit ABC,” said Tarnofsky-Ostroff.

The creative minds behind the show said they were happy about the shared window.

“We are as intrigued and as curious as anyone else to see how the world of TV will evolve in the next five years,” said “Once & Again” co-creator and exec producer Marshall Herskovitz. “The TV-watching public is used to the notion of being able to watch ‘The Sopranos’ three times a week on HBO. It’ll be interesting to see how our show does when it’s available more than one time a week.”

Co-creator Ed Zwick added that he doesn’t think the extra Lifetime run will dampen the show’s value in syndication. “We don’t think this will affect its afterlife four years from now, and it might have a positive effect on its first incarnation” on ABC.

“Once and Again,” which premiered Tuesday with strong ratings, is skedded to go on hiatus from ABC in six weeks. Tarnofsky-Ostroff said that Lifetime may continue to rerun the program on Friday nights during this break.

(Cynthia Littleton and Josef Adalian in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)