In arrangements that are likely harbingers of the future,
VH1 has struck deals to air both ABC's biopic on Sonny and Cher and NBC's The
'60s miniseries,this summer, before the broadcasters run those programs a
second time, officials said last week.
VH1 has struck a handful of similar deals in the past few
months, offering broadcast networks on-air promotion for their movies and miniseries in
exchange for the giving the cable network an early window to rebroadcast them, long before
the usual cable window opens up.
The deals also illustrate the pressure on broadcast
networks and producers to cover their expensive programming costs and to plumb new revenue
streams in as many new ways as possible.
In the case of And the Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher
Story,which was scheduled to air on ABC tonight (Feb. 22), VH1 reached a
license deal with Tribune Entertainment, the made-for-TV movie's distributor, for its
cable window, according to Jeff Gaspin, VH1's executive vice president of
VH1 then got permission from ABC to air And the Beat
Goes On several times this summer before the broadcast network runs it a second time.
As part of the arrangement, VH1 promoted the movie throughoutlast week, before it
aired on ABC.
For The '60s, VH1has bought a cable license
window for five years that starts Aug. 1, which coincides with NBC's
network-broadcast window for the highly rated miniseries.
"We've had cable windows with broadcast windows
before, but not to this extent," Gaspin said.
In addition to paying a license fee for multiple runs, VH1
promoted the miniseries, and it produced and aired a news story on the making of its sound
The cable network will also run direct-response spots for
the soundtrack and home video of The '60s, and it will share in the revenue
from sales generated from those spots.
According to Gaspin, the agreements for the two shows give
VH1 access to high-quality programming sooner than usual, while the broadcast networks get
the benefit of extensive promotion in front of the cable network's 65 million homes.
Although VH1 has been increasing the amount of original
programming that it is doing -- even producing its own made-for-TV movies -- Gaspin said
the network must still make acquisitions to fill its schedule. It used to depend on
theatrical movies, but that source is dwindling, he added. Programs such as And the
Beat Goes On and The '60s can take their place, and they are perfect for
"I'm thrilled that networks are beginning to do
music movies," Gaspin said.
In the case of And the Beat Goes On, Gaspin said,
"It's a biopic of Sonny and Cher. It's a movie that we would have liked to
have made. We've played their series on our air."
With The '60s,he pointed out that
nearly every scene has music in it, perfectly fitting VH1's music mandate. "And
that baby boomer audience is ripe for VH1," Gaspin said.
NBC estimated that 47 million people watched some portion
of The '60s,which aired Feb. 7 and 8.
VH1 will probably do a Sixties stunt week this summer,
around the time when it airs The '60s, Gaspin said.
The latest deals are in some ways similar to agreements
that VH1 struck to run CBS' Celine Dion Christmas special and Fox's The 1998
Billboard Awards show not long after both programs aired on their respective broadcast
networks. VH1 aired both of those programs in December.
In a more traditional deal, VH1 has acquired the cable
window to NBC miniseries The Temptations,which aired this past fall, from
Hallmark Entertainment. But Gaspin said VH1 can't air the show until after NBC's
next play of it, or after four years -- whichever comes first.
More broadcast-cable sharing of windows may be in the
works. Barry Diller's USA Studios, in talking to NBC about the renewal of Law
& Order, is asking that USA Network be able to rebroadcast episodes of Dick
Wolf's new series, Sex Crimes, just one week after they run on NBC.