EC 101 Article 09 Will Buffy Slay the WB and Make the Leap to FOX_

EC 101 Article 09 Will Buffy Slay the WB and Make the Leap to FOX_

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Will Buffy Slay the WB And Make Leap to Fox? By JOE FLINT Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL How much is a vampire slayer worth? If her name is Buffy and she helped put a television network on the map, plenty, argues producer Twentieth Century Fox Television. As the hit series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" enters its fifth year, it's locked in a blood feud with the WB Network over its value. The renewal talks are pitting two media giants against each other, leading longtime friends to trade barbs and even dragging in Sarah Michelle Gellar, the actress who plays Buffy. The "Buffy" brouhaha is the latest example of the changing balance of power in Hollywood, where the old rules are being rewritten as media giants increasingly control both networks and studios. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has been a huge success for AOL Time Warner Inc.'s six-year-old WB network, which buys the show from News Corp. 's Twentieth Century Fox Television unit. Now Twentieth is indicating that it will take "Buffy" to another network -- maybe even its own sister Fox network -- if the WB doesn't open up its wallet. The deadline for the two sides to reach a deal is Friday. After that, Twentieth can shop the show to other networks. While its ratings pale compared with such big hits as NBC's "ER" or ABC's "The Practice," "Buffy" has developed a cult following, turned Ms. Gellar into a star and helped to transform the WB from an upstart to a legitimate player. "It helped define the network and set the young, hip image of the WB," says Garth Ancier, the WB's former entertainment president. "Buffy" also made it easier for the WB to lure other top producers and sent a signal to both the audience and the industry that "we were real and serious," says Mr. Ancier, who still maintains a small ownership stake in the WB. Currently, the WB pays about $1 million an episode for "Buffy," up from the $850,000 it paid when the show first went on the air in March 1997. Twentieth wants at least $2 million an episode, and perhaps as much as $2.5 million. The show -- which uses lots of special effects as Buffy battles vampires, witches and, in one episode, a giant praying mantis disguised as a teacher -- isn't cheap to make. Production costs have risen from about $1.4 million in the first year to $2 million now, according to people close to the
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EC 101 Article 09 Will Buffy Slay the WB and Make the Leap to FOX_

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