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'Traffic' Lights Up NBC, USA Networks

John Dempsey

NEW YORK (Variety) - USA Films has landed the best TV rights deal for a movie in its history, selling the drugs-war saga ''Traffic'' in a shared network window to sibling cable channel USA Network and NBC.

Sources say spirited bidding bumped the total license fee up to about 17 percent of the film's eventual gross in U.S. theaters, with NBC putting up 12 percent of the gross because it gets an exclusive two-year window to schedule the first two network-prime-time runs of ``Traffic.''

So if Academy Award nominations and Golden Globe victories propel ``Traffic'' into the $100 million stratosphere, NBC will pay about $12 million and USA about $5 million. USA gets multiple exclusive runs of ``Traffic'' over the final three years of the five-year contract.

Scott Greenstein, chairman of USA Films, said ``the movie has become accepted into the public consciousness.'' Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film boasts an ensemble cast including Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Benicio Del Toro.

NBC will get ``Traffic'' in September 2003, about 18 months after the movie begins its exclusive pay TV run on Showtime.

Greenstein said ``Traffic'' will soon climb above USA Films' previous highest-grossing movie, ``Pitch Black,'' which ended up at about $40 million domestically. ``Traffic'' currently stands at about $35.3 million after two weekends in wide release.

USA Films and USA Network are both owned by Barry Diller's USA Networks Inc.

Scott Sassa, president of NBC West Coast, described ``Traffic'' as ``socially relevant,'' and added, ``We anticipate that the merit and attention paid to this thought-provoking film will only increase in time and thereby enhance its status as a future classic.''

The film is competing for five prizes at Sunday's Golden Globe awards.

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Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited. Click for Restrictions.

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