The legendary series Saturday Night Live
will be making the transition from Comedy Central to E! Entertainment Television.
Through a trio of deals with an estimated value of $40 million to $50 million, E! will gain access to all of the Saturday Night Live
library in January 2004.
A deal with SNL
creator Lorne Michaels' production company, Broadway Video, brings the first five seasons of the venerable sketch show to E!, starting April 1.
E! will strip episodes from 1975-76 to 1979-80 at 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Another deal with NBC will give E! episodes from the current 2001-02 season in September, and installments from future seasons the fall after they air.
episodes — spanning 1980-81 to 2000-01 — become available to E! in January 2004. The deal extends through 2008.
E! declined comment, but several sources peg the deals' value in the "mid-eight figures."
"Saturday Night Live
has been a great show for Comedy from a comedic standpoint, but it will work for us from fun, entertainment and celebrity angles," E! Networks executive vice president Mark Sonnenberg said.
Comedy —SNL's basic-cable home for 11 years — retains control of the 1980-81 to 2000-01 season episodes through 2003.
A Comedy spokesman acknowledged SNL
has "made a great contribution" to the network over the years. But price and terms that restrict the number of plays influenced its decision to drop out of the bidding.
He said Comedy would continue to assess an acquisition if it's "the right fit," but more time and resources will go toward developing originals.
Comedy is interested in off-network rights to NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
E! has a deal for same-day airings of NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly.
SNL is a workhorse, often running three to four times a day on Comedy. In its "better range," it generates ratings between 0.5 to 0.6s, Comedy said.
E! also plans to run SNL
frequently. Episodes involving cast members Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Mike Myers could complement movie-premiere coverage, other celebrity projects or provide fodder for E!'s Revealed
E!'s upcoming TV Tales
will lay out the welcome mat. The two-hour TV Tales: Saturday Night Live
debuts March 31 at 8 p.m., with behind-the-scenes footage and cast interviews.