Bravo, truly stepping up to the plate and outbidding some formidable rivals, has acquired the exclusive cable rights to the Emmy Award-winning drama The West Wing.
Looking to use the popular NBC program to lure in viewers for its own original series, Bravo will pay Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution just over $1 million per episode, sources said.
Bravo declined to comment on the cost of West Wing, which will come to the network in fall 2003, when 80 to 100 episodes will be available.
The arts-and-culture network, which has planned five new original series for this year, reportedly bid against a number of other cable services for The West Wing, including Turner Network Television, A&E
Network, USA Network and Courtroom Television Network.
Though the per-episode cost to Bravo is pricey, it doesn't quite break any records, sources said. TBS Superstation paid more than $1 million for reruns of Seinfeld
and TNT wound up paying what amounted to be roughly $800,000 per episode for ER.
"We have coveted this show since it began airing on NBC," said Ed Carroll, Bravo's executive vice president and general manager. "The writing is so strong. The characters are so strong. We identified it as uniquely suited to Bravo."
perfectly reflects Bravo's target demographic of adults aged 25 to 54 in upscale households earning $75,000 or more a year, he added.
Under its agreement with Warner Bros., Bravo will get all West Wing
episodes produced through 2009. Bravo plans to strip the White House drama in primetime and package it under its new Art of Television
showcase in fourth-quarter of 2002.
Also during that strand, Bravo will air The Larry Sanders Show, marking the basic-cable debut of the Home Box Office series. Bravo reportedly paid just over $200,000 an episode for it.
Bravo, which is co-owned by Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. and NBC, is banking that West Wing
will help it build distribution down the line. The service is now in 52.5 million homes, expects to finish this year at 60 million and will be close to 70 million by the time West Wing
reruns begin, Carroll said.
"It's going to help us get the most elusive subscribers, that last 10 million or so [above 70 million]," he said. "We know West Wing
will be a valuable commodity locally, in terms of local ad sales."
Bravo now has 30 million ad-insertable subscribers.
Rainbow just received an $825 infusion from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., but Bravo officials denied that funding was used to finance the West Wing
deal. The fact that Bravo is now selling national advertising is what made this pact possible.
"The deal is self-financing: We will sell advertising on West Wing,
" Carroll said. "Advertising allows us to step up and do a deal like this."
Although a soft ad market is predicted this for year, Bravo's sales for the first quarter are up 98 percent compared with a year ago.
Bravo's upfront presentation is April 2, and the network plans to announce five new original shows, said Francis Berwick, senior vice president of programming. Another five new original series are also set for 2002.
In other news from Rainbow last week, American Movie Classics promoted senior vice president of original programming, packaging and production Marc Juris to general manager and executive vice president.
In effect, Juris fills the post that has been open since last July, when AMC general manager Noreen O'Loughlin left. Juris will report to Kate McEnroe, president of AMC Networks.
And in another deal, Rainbow Media's MuchMusic USA has signed long-term carriage deals with Time Warner Cable and Adelphia Communications Corp. MuchMusic will become part of those networks' digital packages.
MuchMusic USA will gain subscribers in Manhattan and Los Angeles, with the Manhattan launch set for April 1.