USA all lathered up for ‘Hairspray’

Network pays $13 million for cable TV rights

USA Network will pony up about $13 million for cable TV rights to New Line’s “Hairspray.”

Musicals don’t usually fetch big bucks from cable networks, but USA took note of the record-shattering 17.2 million viewers who tuned into the premiere of the Disney Channel’s made-for-TV “High School Musical 2” on Aug. 17.

Zac Efron, the star of “HSM2,” has a featured role in “Hairspray,” a fact that USA is expected to highlight when it takes title to the movie in February 2010. USA will also be able to funnel some runs of “Hairspray” to its Bravo sibling during the contract’s four-year term.

New Line TV Distribution has the right to carve out two windows within the USA term to sell “Hairspray” to a broadcast network for one or two runs and to a cable network for multiple runs, which will pour a few more millions of dollars into New Line’s coffers. HBO has the exclusive pay TV window to “Hairspray” as part of its output deal with New Line.

“I think ‘Hairspray’ will have the staying power of ‘Grease,’ ” said Jane Blaney, senior VP of programming for USA. The 1978 movie version of “Grease,” starring John Travolta (who also stars in “Hairspray” as an exuberantly overweight housewife), still draws viewers when it runs on a cable network and a “Grease” revival is playing on Broadway.

Blaney added that USA’s “characters welcome” marketing campaign for all its series will fit the larger-than-life characters in “Hairspray,” played by Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and other cast members.

David Spiegelman, senior executive producer of domestic distribution and marketing for New Line TV, negotiated the “Hairspray” deal with Blaney.