Trek Spinoff Reruns To Move To Cable Channels

By Christian
October 27, 2000 - 5:53 PM

John Dempsey at Variety is reporting that Paramount Television recently informed cable networks that it's ready to sell the rerun rights for 'The Next Generation', 'Deep Space Nine' and 'Voyager', for the record-breaking license fee of $364 million.

As part of the deal, TNG episodes would become available for weekday reruns starting the 1st of January, 2002, when current syndication contracts for the show run out. The series would cost a minimum of $1 million per episode, breaking the record for rerun hours set a couple of years ago by 'ER'.

DS9 and Voyager would both cost $700,000 per episode, with DS9 becoming available in April 2004 and Voyager in the third quarter of 2006, again after current syndication contracts.

In addition to the weekday rerun rights which Paramount is offering to cable networks, the network is also planning to offer a weekend rerun option for each of the three series to TV stations, at the same time of the cable deal. If the cable network that obtains the rights would insist on exclusivity, that would also be possible, but for a higher license fee.

When asked by Variety, Paramount declined comment, but according to the trade paper's sources the two most likely contenders are the Sci-Fi Channel and Viacom's own TNN. Other networks, like TNT, Fox Family, Odyssey Channel and FX, would also be interested in the shows, but they would be unlikely to meet Paramount's financial demands.

In many ways, the Sci-Fi Channel would be the logical choice for the Trek license. Original Series reruns have provided solid ratings for the network, even if they weren't as spectacular as the network would have hoped, and the 90-minute Special Edition airings were halted halfway through their second run. Still, its airings of Star Trek movies always take in very high ratings for the network, and it would fit in well with its other recent acquisitions, such as the 'Babylon 5' rerun rights.

TNN, which Viacom recently renamed from The Nashville Network to The National Network, is currently transforming itself to a general-entertainment network, and Star Trek reruns would tremendously raise the profile of the network.

In addition, one could speculate that by having TNN obtain the cable rerun rights to Star Trek, this would be a good stepping stone for Viacom towards launching its own science-fiction channel. In early 1999, Viacom chairman Summer Redstone was quoted as saying they might launch their own SF cable channel to compete with the Sci-Fi Channel, but that contractual obligations prevented from doing so until after the Fall of 2001. The three Star Trek series would go a long way towards providing a credible sci-fi service.

Of course, even in 1999 a Viacom spokesperson already denied the company had any definite plans for such a channel, the CBS merger probably changed a lot of things and there is no way to tell if Viacom even considered launching an SF channel over the past year, but it's still an interesting idea.

For a bit more on this, please read the full Variety article.

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