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‘Girls’ going to ABC Family

Agreement a first; multi-year run to debut fall 2004

NEW ORLEANS — ABC Family has struck a groundbreaking deal to acquire exclusive off-network rights to the Warner Bros. Television drama “Gilmore Girls.”

Under the pact, Warner Bros. will share in ABC Family’s advertising revenue from the skein, which airs Tuesday nights on the WB network.

Agreement marks the first time a studio will participate in the ad revenue upside of an off-net drama that has been sold to cable — signaling the continuing move toward innovative dealmaking in the face of the changing TV marketplace and general economy.

ABC Family’s multi-year run of “Gilmore Girls” will debut in fall 2004.

The cabler’s license fee for the show is close to $500,000 per episode, insiders said, with the value of the deal to Warners potentially amounting to as much as $750,000 with the ad revenue included.

Recent deals for a couple of other shows — “Malcolm in the Middle” and “King of Queens” — also included ad components. But those deals are different: The shows are half-hours, and the repeats will air in broadcast syndication in addition to their cable runs.

While distribs often reserve the right to sell a weekend broadcast syndication play of off-net hours they sell to cable, “Gilmore Girls” will air only on ABC Family in off-net.

“They get a hit program at a license fee they can afford, and it can still generate a substantial amount of revenue for the studio that’s in sync with the performance of the program,” Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution prexy Eric Frankel said.

ABC Family exec VP Tom Cosgrove said the show’s exclusivity “helped seal the deal for us.”

“It has a broad appeal and hits on the key demos we’re currently strongest with, teens and young adults,” he said.

Deal also marks the first off-net deal for ABC Family since Angela Shapiro joined as president of the Disney-owned cable network.

“Gilmore Girls,” created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, was the first program created under the Family Friendly Programming Forum and draws significant auds for the WB.

Sherman-Palladino, Gavin Polone and Daniel Palladino exec produce.

The Frog net currently airs repeats of the show’s first season, under the banner “Gilmore Girls: Beginnings,” in Sunday’s opening hour of primetime.

“Gilmore Girls” will likely be scheduled as a companion to another off-net drama on ABC Family, “7th Heaven,” which joined the sked in September. “Heaven” airs in afternoons and at 7 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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