TNT nabs Star Wars basic cable rights

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TNT and TBS will be the new basic cable home of the Star Wars franchise, per The Wrap. TNT will begin airing the first two trilogies later this month, beginning with The Phantom Menace on Tuesday, September 20. They’ll debut one film a night and finish up with a six-movie marathon on Sunday, September 25.

The multi-year licensing agreement also includes The Force Awakens (currently running on the premium channel Starz) and Rogue One. They’ll join the lineup in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Variety’s “industry sources” estimate the deal is worth “at least $250 million” for at least 10 films, with the rights for The Force Awakens and the upcoming movies in the range of $35-$40 million each. The deal runs through “at least” 2022. USA Network – which held the Star Wars basic cable rights back in the ’90s – and FX Networks were also in contention for the deal.

Rumor: Disney shopping Star Wars films to basic cable again

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Variety reports that Disney began pitching the free TV rights – technically basic cable – on the Star Wars films last week, for all three trilogies. The asking price on is claimed to be “high” – even for the “vintage” titles. Movie rights are worth less and less to networks these days, but Star Wars seems to be an exception.

Spike TV held the Star Wars rights through 2014, paying $65-$70 million for six years and six films. The Indiana Jones films went for about $25M each in 2008.

Cable outlets who have met or are meeting with Disney include Turner, FX Networks, Viacom, NBCUniversal (which owns SyFy, which aired A New Hope when it first launched as the Sci-Fi Channel and USA Network, who had the rights to the original trilogy in the 90s,) A+E Networks and AMC Networks.

Variety cites speculation that the pitches to outside networks may be Disney’s way of seeing “what the market will bear” – aka covering their ass – before settling the rights on one of their own networks. (I’ve been expecting the films will indeed show up on Freeform.)

The Force Awakens will debut on Starz next year as the last film under the channel’s deal with Disney. TFA likely won’t show up on basic cable until 2018, while Episode VIII and IX will go to Netflix first under Disney’s current deal with the streaming service.