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Medium Causes Large Losses at Lifetime

Betting big on the wrong off-network show can be a costly mistake. How costly? Walt Disney Co. yesterday reported its earnings and said that it had taken a $58 million charge against earnings for its share of writing off a program at Lifetime, which became part of A&E Television Networks last year. (Disney is partners in AETN with Hearst and NBC.)

Sources said the charge was for the Medium, featuring a housewife who solves crimes by communicating with spirits. Lifetime bought the rerun rights to Medium from CBS. Because of low ratings, Medium no longer appears on Lifetime, which is one reason why the charge against earnings was so large. Medium is still running on CBS, thanks in part to the money it gets from Lifetime.

Medium is not the only off-net show in distress at Lifetime. It didn’t have much luck with ABC’s Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy and is still paying for those. And two newer sitcom acquisitions from CBS, How I Met Your Mother and New Adventures of Old Christine are struggling.

So you don’t have to have supernatural powers to understand why Lifetime’s new management under Nancy Dubuc is hustling to get more original programming on the network.