The Nine Network has won the media war and snaffled the Beaconsfield miners for a two-hour special this Sunday night at 8.30pm.

According to sources at Seven, the network pulled out because the value of the story was falling as more material entered the public arena: like last night’s excellent 7.30 Report story on Peter Hatswell, the mine rescue expert who led the rescue attempts. Seven was offering around $2.6-2.7 million for TV and magazine rights. By Tuesday afternoon the miner’s agent, Sean Anderson, told Seven their offer wasn’t enough, so Seven quit the race.

Nine is believed to have paid between $2.75 and $3 million. But that won’t stop Russell and Webb selling their story to CNN’s Larry King, the US Today show’s Matt Lauer and Good Morning America‘s Diane Sawyer, according to Eddie McGuire. All three have reportedly made contact with the reporters in recent days.

“Basically what we’re going to do is we’ll have an exclusive window so we can do our story, and everybody in Australia will see first-hand through the Nine Network what has happened and their reaction to their ordeal a kilometre under the earth,” McGuire told Macquarie Radio this morning. “And then we’ll allow them to go overseas and if there’s a story to be told or sold in America, then we’ll allow the boys to be able to do that as well. That will probably happen in a fortnight or a week after we have all our stories go to air.”

McGuire said that under the PBL deal, Woman’s Day, The Australian Women’s Weekly and The Bulletin would also have access to the men.

So how will Nine recoup its costs? The special will run for two hours on Sunday from 8.30pm to 10.30pm. There will be promotion in ACA on Friday night and the News around the country to whet viewer interest.

ACP will publish The Bulletin on Sunday evening to coincide with the special: it will be on newsstands on Monday. The “female angle” on the story will appear in Woman’s Day, which will also publish on Sunday for Monday morning sale. The Australian Women’s Weekly is due to publish the June issue in about a week and the cover will be the miners and their wives if it makes the deadline.

So how much money will Eddie and Nine make? Nine normally charges just under $75,000 a half minute spot ad on Sunday nights for CSI and a bit less, down around $50,000 for CSI Miami. That’s a range of around $90,000 to $145,000 or so a minute. Media buyer Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy believes Nine can get $80-100,000 a 30 second spot, or between $160,000 and $200,000 a minute for the miners’ story.

So how much advertising will be allowed. Normally there’s maximum of 15 minutes an hour in prime time for commercials and station promos. If you allow two minutes for promos that leaves, say, 13 minutes an hour at $160-200,000 a minute, or around $2 million to $2.6 million an hour, or a total of around $4-5.2 million for the two hours, compared to a normal return for the same timeslot of around $2-3 million.

It’s a decent-sized profit, not to mention all the kudos, and it’s locked in.