In its biggest programming acquisition ever, estimated at
$140 million, Sci-Fi Channel has bought the rights to off-network episodes of The Outer
Limits and Stargate SG-1, which initially aired on Showtime, and it will bring
over new episodes of another Showtime series, Poltergeist: The Legacy, to its
lineup, officials said last week.
"All three of these series represent oxygen to Sci-Fi
Channel, and they will allow the network to build on its core franchise," said Rod
Perth, president of entertainment for USA Networks. "They're all well-produced,
and they have a brand value that's important. They will represent the underpinnings
of the network."
Under the deal, Sci-Fi will essentially be getting
exclusive basic-cable rights to "off-network" episodes -- reruns that have
already aired on premium service Showtime -- of Outer Limits and Stargate from
MGM Worldwide Television Group. Outer Limits and Stargate episodes will be
available to Sci-Fi in September 1999 and September 2002, respectively. Part of the time
when Sci-Fi will air those series will overlap with the syndication window on the two
Showtime will continue to air new original episodes of Outer
Limits and Stargate as part of its primetime Friday-night block of
science-fiction shows, a Showtime spokesman said.
Sci-Fi's deal with MGM is different for Poltergeist,
which will be moving off Showtime's schedule. MGM will produce 22 original new
episodes of Poltergeist, the series' fourth season, which Sci-Fi will start
airing in the first quarter of next year. With those new shows, Sci-Fi will get a library
of 88 Poltergeist episodes, which it can eventually strip.
Sci-Fi plans to strip the reruns of Stargate and Outer
Limits immediately in primetime Monday through Friday, according to Perth.
Sci-Fi has been aiming to add programming to its schedule
that has a wider appeal to viewers, according to Perth, and the MGM deal is part of that
"I was concerned that there was a tendency for this
network to be too narrow," Perth said. "Sci-fi is a genre that can be broadened
and be far more accessible."