Sci Fi secures 2-year ‘Farscape’ deal

Series one of the priciest on cable at $1.4 mil an hour

The Sci Fi Channel has engineered the biggest program commitment in its history, a two-year, 44-episode renewal of the network’s highest-rated weekly series “Farscape.”

The Jim Henson Co. and Hallmark Entertainment laid out a production budget of $1.4 million an hour, making “Farscape” one of the priciest series in all of basic cable. Sci Fi’s license fee to Henson/Hallmark comes to about half of the production cost, which gives the network exclusive rights, including reruns, to “Farscape” in the U.S. Hallmark sells the show worldwide.

Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer said, ” ‘Farscape’ is our signature show, and with this deal, it now becomes our longest-running original series ever.”

Sci Fi plans to schedule the new episodes of “Farscape” beginning in January, most likely as the linchpin of a Friday-night block of original programming. Other original series Sci Fi will be able to choose from include “The Outer Limits” and “Stargate: SG-1,” two MGM shows that began on Showtime, and Greenblatt-Janollari’s “The Chronicle,” which concerns a tabloid newspaper that reports on aliens and other bizarre phenomena.

Hammer also said that “Taken,” the long-in-the-works, 20-hour epic miniseries from DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg about alien abduction, will complete production by next summer for premiere on Sci Fi in the fourth quarter of 2002.

Sci Fi’s best-performing original five-a-weeker, “Crossing Over With John Edward,” begins production later this month in New York on its fourth cycle of 65 half-hours.

Shot in Australia, “Farscape” has four executive producers: David Kemper, Juliet Black, Robert Halmi Jr. and Brian Henson. Series creator is Rockne S. O’Bannon, and the star is Ben Browder, who plays a contemporary American astronaut who’s sucked through a wormhole that takes him to the far side of the universe, where he befriends some aliens and is hunted by others.

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