ABC Family under Harry Potter’s spell

Network nabs cable rights to 'Blood,' 'Phoenix'

ABC Family continues to secure a basic-cable lock on the Harry Potter franchise by prebuying cable rights to “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” 10 months in advance of its theatrical debut, and making a belated pickup of the 2007 “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

The first four Potter movies — “Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001), “Chamber of Secrets” (2002), “Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004) and “Goblet of Fire” (2005) — are already under contract to ABC Family. Tom Zappala, senior VP of program acquisitions and scheduling for ABC Family, said the movies have become one of the bellwethers of the network’s annual “25 Days of Christmas” programming initiative, often getting key primetime slots.

Warner Bros. and ABC Family declined to discuss deal terms, but as part of the wide-ranging negotiations, the network has bought exclusive rights to “Happy Feet” (2006) and “Nancy Drew” (2007), and second plays in the network window of “Fred Claus,” whose first play is on TBS, and “TMNT,” which kicks off on Cartoon Network.

ABC Family also has the right to play off some runs of these titles on the ABC broadcast network, the Disney Channel and Disney XD, all siblings of ABC Family.

These runs on all the networks will also apply to the library product that comes along with the deal, including “Polar Express,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Miss Congeniality” and the first four titles in the “Batman” series that Warners produced and distributed between 1989 and 1997.

Zappala said he’ll work with Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution, to help launch the theatrical release of “Half Blood Prince” in July by running a marathon of the first four “Harry Potter” films. These cross-promotion strategies often draw more people into the multiplexes at the same time as they’re adding to the Nielsen ratings of the older titles on the network.