Coming up on Fox: a very special episode of ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”! It sounds odd now, but TV insiders aren’t ruling out the possibility that when ”Buffy”’s contract with the WB expires in 2001, negotiations may get so heated that show and network part ways. Right now the WB pays up to $1 million per episode for ”Buffy,” making it one of the net’s most expensive shows (along with ”7th Heaven” and ”Dawson’s Creek”), and although sources are hesitant to guess ”Buffy”’s future asking price, you can be sure it won’t come cheap.
What makes this deal especially provocative are the players involved. ”Buffy” is produced by Twentieth Century Fox TV, whose chairman, Sandy Grushow, was just handed additional responsibility for sister net Fox. Grushow could yank ”Buffy” for his own net if the WB doesn’t pony up, a threat he made publicly at a gathering of studio heads last January: ”Buffy” may hit the road, he said, if WB network CEO ”Jamie Kellner attempts to lowball and refuses to step up to fair market value.”
Although no successful series has ever abandoned one net for another, now that many major studios are affiliated with particular networks (Paramount/UPN; Twentieth Century Fox TV/Fox; Warner Bros. TV/the WB), the possibility gets ever more likely. And while the WB can’t afford to send the message that it won’t fork over the cash for its prize performers, execs have said privately they also can’t afford to let the ”Buffy” deal get out of control — especially since there is some question about how much life is left in the series. (Watch the Slayer get her Ph.D.!) The WB does have some bargaining power, however; Fox produces two other shows for the net, ”Angel” and ”Roswell,” both of which need major TLC. Stay tuned to see if the bloodletting begins.