‘Signs’ on dotted line for Turner

Pic's license fee in $30 mil-plus range

NEW YORK — Turner Broadcasting’s TNT and TBS have outbid cabler ABC Family for the shared cable TV rights to “Signs.”

ABC, a sister company of Buena Vista, is the expected broadcast network buyer for the Touchstone pic, and it was, until Monday, a logical assumption that ABC Family would share the rights.

The license fee for “Signs” will hover in the $30 million-plus range, a payday that befits the fourth highest-grossing movie of the summer, which has surpassed $200 million in U.S. theaters and is still going strong.

ABC will pony up the bigger percentage of the license fee because it gets the first play of “Signs” during a 15-month window that begins in May 2005.

“Signs” then goes to TNT/TBS for a burst of runs. TNT is likely to premiere “Signs” in June 2006 as part of its recently adopted strategy of scheduling hit movies three or four times over a weekend and adding up the ratings of the cablecasts to deliver a broadcast-network-sized audience to potential advertisers. TNT engineered that ploy with movies such as “Matrix,” “The Mummy” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

The movie will shift again between ABC and Turner’s TNT/TBS throughout the rest of the decade before going back to Starz! in the second pay-TV window. Starz! has the pay TV rights, beginning with an exclusive 18-month window in August 2003.

ABC, TBS and TNT have also negotiated an exclusive network-window deal with Buena Vista for another of its summer thrillers, “Reign of Fire.”

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