Inside Move: Sneak pique at ‘Harry’?

WB's 'Potter' promo finds home at ABC

After Universal helped boost “Dawn of the Dead” to a $26.7 million opening with a 10-minute sneak preview on sibling cabler USA, the idea seems to be catching on elsewhere.

The May 9 broadcast premiere of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on ABC will be capped off with a 10-minute clips-and-interviews sneak of the upcoming sequel “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which bows June 4.

The logic is similar to the “Dawn” zombie sampler: Studio execs look at it as 10 minutes of airtime they don’t have to pay for and tube programmers see it as a way to get more people to tune in.

U and USA are both part of the Vivendi Universal Entertainment Group, but the “Potter” deal has the Walt Disney-owned broadcaster promoting a Warner Bros. property.

In the era of synergy-conscious media congloms, one might think that Disney film execs, who have their own big family pic, “Around the World in 80 Days,” opening less than two weeks after “Azkaban,” might object. But that wasn’t the case.

The sneak idea came out of discussions about what kind of programming Warners could offer to pad out “Potter” to a 4-hour broadcast, says ABC rep Annie Fort.

And ABC, which paid $130 million in 2001 for TV rights for the first two “Potter” pics, was looking for ways to lure viewers who had already seen “Sorcerer’s Stone” in theaters, on cable and on DVD.

“If it makes sense to help their ratings, it’s certainly not our business to tell them what to do,” says Disney marketing senior VP Dennis Rice, who adds that Disney and ABC cross-promote frequently. “If there are business relationships with other entities, they have their business to run.”

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