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Deal could cost $150 million

'Buffy' picks up stakes, leaves WB for UPN

UPN has agreed to pay an average of $2.33 million per episode for
UPN has agreed to pay an average of $2.33 million per episode for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in a two-year, 44-episode license agreement  

HOLLYWOOD, California -- Television history is being made with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

The popular teen occult drama that's produced by 20th Century Fox is jumping ship from the WB network, its home for the past five years, to rival UPN.

It represents the first time in modern TV history that a hit series has jumped networks solely over economic issues, Reuters reports.

The heart of the deal is about money.

UPN outbid the WB to win rights to distribute the series, a move that ultimately could cost UPN $150 million, the wire service reports.

Adding "Buffy," WB's No. 3 rated show, will provide UPN with a platform "to launch other quality shows," said Dean Valentine, UPN's CEO. "It's a great thing for us."

  ALSO How the 'Buffy' battle might shake up the networks

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UPN has agreed to pay an average of $2.33 million per episode for the series in a two-year, 44-episode license agreement -- just more than $102 million. The deal will guarantee the show airs through a seventh season.

That cost could increase if UPN also buys rights to "Buffy" spin-off "Angel." If that occurs, UPN has agreed to a two-year deal for "Angel," at a slight bump over the show's current license fee of around $1 million.

'Prince Charming'

"Buffy" producer Josh Whedon is happy with the move. He's still angry over critical remarks ex-WB head Jamie Kellner made to Entertainment Weekly about "Buffy"'s value to the network. (Kellner is now chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting.)

"I've been dumped by my fat old ex, and Prince Charming has come and swept me off my feet," Whedon told Variety. "I'm mostly very excited because I now have a network that cares about my show, as opposed to one that insults it."

However, WB insiders, speaking anonymously to Reuters and Variety, claim 20th Century Fox sold "Buffy" to UPN only because its parent company, News Corp., soon will own several key UPN affiliates.

There's also a chance News Corp. could end up with an equity stake in UPN or perhaps acquire the network altogether, according to Reuters.

It was simply a matter of economics, Fox Entertainment Television Group chairman Sandy Grushow told Reuters.

"If News Corp. didn't own a single UPN station, we would have made the same exact deal," Grushow said.

When it bowed in 1997, "Buffy" helped create the WB image as a hip network that caters to teen and young adult women. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, the show is a spin-off from a 1992 movie of the same name. Each episode, Buffy saves the world, her friends and herself from various vampires. She's even bested Count Dracula.

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' - official site
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Fox Studios

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