Channel 4 has won a bidding war to secure a five year moviesupply deal with USstudio 20th Century Fox, understood to be worth as much as $260m (£150m).

The deal gives C4 immediate access to the extensive Fox backcatalogue of over 1,500 films and upcoming slate of big budget theatricalreleases.

Titles include US blockbusters like Cheaper by the Dozen, Dodgeball, Garfield,I-Robot, The Day After Tomorrow, Master and Commander, Titanic and Big Momma's House.Upcoming movies to be covered by the deal include Oscar winner Walk the Line, ThePink Panther, In Her Shoes and X-Men 3.

ITV, Five and the BBC -which reportedly pulled out of the bidding process as the price tag increased -had all been keen to secure the deal.

Sources said C4 and ITV wanted to stop Fivewinning the package as it would have provided film content for the RTL-ownedbroadcaster's long awaited digital offerings Five.2 and Five.3.

The deal is also strategically important for C4 as thebroadcaster prepares to re-launch FilmFour as afree-to-air proposition.

The new investment is expected to make up around 25% of C4'stotal budget for acquired product. Sky will continue to have a pay window fornew Fox films.

John McVay, chief executive of PACT,said C4 had every right to buy US films but he would be concerned if they beganto replace British programmes.

"Bundles like this potentially have a double whammy effect.Not only is C4 not investing the money in original programming but they arethen going to screen the movies on either one of their main channels ordedicated film channel, displacing opportunities for original Britishprogramming."

A C4 spokesman denied that would be the case. "The re-launchof FilmFour as a free-to-air channel in July requiresan increase in our free-to-air film stock, but there are no plans to increasethe number of films shown on C4 - we are simply seeking to ensure that we havethe best titles to play in our existing movie slots," he said.

"The cost of this deal with Twentieth Century Fox is beingmet out of our existing acquisitions budget and there is no question of moneybeing taken away from original production to pay for it.

"In fact we are increasing our spendon original British production across both film and TV this year to recordlevels - a fact that PACT is well aware of."

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