Showtime, Starz ink output deals

Pay cable nets sign separate movie agreements with Disney

Pay cable networks Showtime and Starz have lined up a slew of theatrical movies through separate output deals with Disney-ABC Domestic TV.

Showtime has inked a pact for as many as 35 films from DreamWorks Studios to be released from this year through 2015, and Starz has extended its output deal for Walt Disney Studios releases through 2015.

Disney-ABC Domestic handles TV distribution for DreamWorks under that indie's output agreement with the Disney Co.

Following Showtime's loss of longtime feature suppliers Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate, which together launched rival pay cable venture Epix, the network has slowly built a movie slate through deals with production companies -- including Summit Entertainment and the Weinstein Co. -- as well as fledgling sibling CBS Films and a deal with Miramax that includes unreleased titles from the Disney-owned specialty division that is now for sale.

Showtime Networks chairman and CEO Matthew Blank said the network was not on the market for an output deal and had been fine with the volume of movies from Summit, including the "Twilight" franchise and best picture Oscar winner "The Hurt Locker"; Weinstein, including "Inglourious Basterds" and "Nine"; and several small package deals and one-off feature acquisitions.

"The deal with DreamWorks was the classic opportunistic deal," he said. "It adds five to six movies a year to our schedule which, coming from Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider, would be high-profile, and the timing of it is very good for us."

Through its defunct Paramount deal, Showtime has access to the studio's movies through year's end, and some MGM and Lionsgate titles will be available in early 2011. Titles covered by the DreamWorks deal include the Hugh Jackman starrer "Real Steel." (DreamWorks Animation has a separate pay cable output deal with HBO.)

Showtime, whose focus will remain on original series, already has a relationship with DreamWorks on the TV side, where DreamWorks TV produces the network's comedy series "United States of Tara" and an in-the-works Broadway-themed project. DreamWorks TV also is involved in Showtime's upcoming period drama "The Borgias," starring Jeremy Irons.

For Starz, the Disney-ABC Domestic agreement gives the pay cabler access to all Disney releases except those produced under the DreamWorks and Miramax banners. That includes product from Marvel, Touchstone and Pixar.

The previous Starz-Disney output agreement was set to expire in 2012. Disney and Sony have been Starz's tentpole film suppliers since its 1994 launch, and those studios commanded about $800 million in combined licensing fees from the network two years ago during the previous round of deal renewals.

Those high fees had been offset by a unique clause in Starz's studio agreements that gives the network digital rights to movies it exploits through a partnership with Netflix. Despite rumblings from Disney that it might look to limit those rights, the extension maintains the status quo.

Disney titles headed to Starz under the new deal include "Up," "Alice in Wonderland," "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Proposal."
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