Trib's 'World'-Class Deal

DreamWorks pact includes Spielberg flick

Dick Askin, president/CEO of Tribune Entertainment, aims to grow his company's ties with Dream­Works SKG to include original programming, production distribution and acquisitions.

Last week, while agreeing to the third extension of a previous 10-year deal, Tribune and DreamWorks announced that Tribune will get exclusive broadcast-distribution and barter rights to 18 titles from 2004 and '05. The pact includes Steven Spielberg's super-hot War of the Worlds, which grossed a hefty $112.7 million in its first six days of theatrical release, Shrek 2, Shark Tale and Madagascar, as well as Michael Bay's upcoming action flick, The Island.

Askin hopes that other Tribune-DreamWorks alliances will follow. But one business the alliance won't touch is the syndicated weekly action hour. Tribune has long made hour-long dramas a cornerstone of its programming strategy, but action hours have fallen on hard times in recent years. Tribune is still in the business but no longer makes it a focal point. “We have changed our action-hour model,” says Askin.

The movie deal comes with a new look, too, according to Askin; Rick Sands, president/COO of DreamWorks; and Hal Richardson, head of DreamWorks Worldwide Television Distribution. Tribune is breaking new ground by offering a nine-day syndication window for a few of the big DreamWorks movie titles. (Stations get two runs of the title in that time period.) The narrow time frame is a radical departure from the traditional 30-day window and gives national advertisers a chance for a coordinated campaign.

Tribune has been meeting with ad agencies and clients “about ways to monetize the short window” and to “make the traditional barter window a little different,” Askin says.

The syndicator gets 14 minutes to sell to national advertisers for each two-hour movie as part of a revenue-sharing agreement with DreamWorks. Stations retain 14 minutes of local time (21 minutes for three-hour films).

The latest DreamWorks package has already been cleared on the Tribune station group, which covers 22 major markets and 89 of the top 90. Askin expects it to ultimately end up with 98% clearance, mostly in early- and late-fringe weekend time periods.

The first movie, yet to be named, can come from any one of the three packages and will be available for syndication in October 2006, between the shared broadcast/basic-cable window and the second HBO run. With a shorter window, Askin believes, advertisers can be more creative in their sponsorship approaches. The goal, he says, is to get a “different caliber of advertiser” than traditionally buys into film packages—particularly sponsors willing to pay a premium for A-list titles.