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TBS Adds 'The Office,' 'Earl' to Lineup

AtlantaTBS has enlisted some office help for the fall.

The “very funny” network fortified its off-network lineup with a repurposed window for Steve Carell-starrerThe Office as part of a deal with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, which also sold strip weekday syndication rights to the cable channel and 10 Fox-owned broadcast stations, beginning in 2009.

Moreover, TBS also scored strip rights to My Name Is Earlfrom Twentieth Television, also starting in 2009.

The addition of Earl and The Office will deepen and freshen TBS's off-network roster of comedies including Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Family Guy and Friends.

TBS, which sources said paid from $650,000 to $700,000 per episode for 130 or more half-hour installments of The Office, also secured the rights to run a pair of episodes per week from the show's first three seasons this fall, before its fourth season commences on NBC. TBS executives have not yet determined a debut date or specific night, but the network's game plan calls for back-to-back episodes to serve as a lead-in to an original late-night entry, The Frank Show, a sketch comedy featuring comic Frank Caliendo, and the second season of supermarket ensemble/improv show 10 Items or Less.

A senior exec at a rival network that had some interest in acquiring The Office commented: “It's a sad fact of life that if Turner wants something, they're going to get it. They're the [New York] Yankees of basic cable.”

This will mark the second time that TBS has gotten a head start on broadcasters in comedy syndication: The network, through a deal with sister company HBO, began running Sex and the City in June 2004, which gave it an 18-month lead over Tribune Broadcasting TV stations group that gained strip rights in September 2006. TBS, which is currently running a pair of Sex installments on Tuesday nights, can expand the number of episodes it can air this fall.

TBS's deal with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, which retains a trio of 30-second barter spots in each of The Office's cable and station runs, also includes non-exclusive broadband-streaming, on-demand and wireless rights for the show concurrent with its off-network run, two years out.

As for Earl, TBS's deal with Twentieth TV also includes digital rights for broadband streaming and on-demand, concurrent to its stripping rights in 2009. Sources put pricing in the $500,000 to $550,000 per episode range. TBS will share the traditional syndication window with stations at that time.

All of the parties declined to comment on deal terms. — Mike Reynolds

ReelzChannel Ramps Up Its Original Programming

Los AngelesReelzChannel, dedicated to movies, will debuting more original programming this summer, adding a weekly series and new short-form content.

The cheeky weekly series What I Learned About (Blank) From the Movies aims to explore the “valuable life lessons” that audiences pick up from their favorite films, about “how people inform their lives from movies,” according to Ian Valentine, ReelzChannel's senior vice president of programming.

The series will use clips from current and popular movies, with comedians as guest stars, to delve into what audiences have learned from movies on topics such as sex, weddings, being ruthless, surviving a disaster, surviving high school, getting divorced, and how the underdog guy always seems to win the heart of the girl.

It will have a special sneak preview Sunday, July 8, at 8 p.m., and will premiere in its regular time period Monday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m. ReelzChannel has bought 10 episodes.

The network will also premiere Movie Takes, daily short-form comedic interstitials that involve “real” people expressing their movie enthusiasm and peeves in passionate 30-second rants, while Miscasting speculates about what would happen if well-known superstar actors auditioned for iconic roles for which they were particularly ill-suited.

The half-minute shorts will be available online on ReelzChannel's Web site.

Cable-Tec AttendanceJumps by 6% Over '06

Orlando, Fla. — The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers said its Cable-Tec Expo 2007 last week attracted 10,700 attendees, up 6% from the 2006 event.

The SCTE also announced that Charter Communications chief technology officer Marwan Fawaz will be chairman of the Cable-Tec Expo 2008 program subcommittee. Next year's conference is scheduled for June 24 to 27 in Philadelphia.

Starcom USA at Center StageAs Cable Upfront Action Starts

New York — While broadcast concluded its proceedings on Friday, Starcom USA was the star of cable's upfront activity last week. The Chicago-based shop inked wide-ranging deals with Discovery Communications and the first kids 2007-08 upfront market agreement with Nickelodeon.

Based on minute-by-minute ratings delivery, the Discovery deal cuts across 11 networks, and also included digital and cross-platform vehicles. The pact not only represented the first cable deal for Starcom for the 2007-08 upfront, but the first marketplace agreement this year based on exact ratings delivery sources from Nielsen All Minute data.

Last year, Starcom inked exact minute deals with The Weather Channel, and Rainbow Media's AMC and WE TV networks. Executives at those networks hope to use that currency again with Starcom during this upfront.

Conversely, Starcom's kids deal, which also encompassed positions on video-on-demand, Nick.com, Neopets, Shockwave, Addicting Games and Nickelodeon magazine, was driven by program ratings.

The Starcom client schedules on Nick and Nicktoons represent a double win for the Viacom vehicle, as company officials, notably CEO Philippe Dauman, have said that new commercial ratings aren't reliable enough yet to enter the marketplace.

Lost in that translation: MTV and other young-skewing Viacom entertainment services see a double-digit falloff for commercial retention, according to market sources, well below the levels of broadcast and most cable networks.

Moreover, many of the broadcast deals last week were fashioned under the new “C3 currency” — a moniker for commercial ratings for live plus three-day digital video recorder viewing.

Whether MTV will retain its program rating stand this week remains to be seen, as many observers anticipate plenty of negotiating and deals from the top-tier cable programmers. Indeed, Turner Entertainment, sources said, had registered 90% of its budgets, as of early Friday afternoon.

With The CW writing some $650 million of upfront business, the five broadcast networks collectively tallied around $9.2 billion, according to market estimates. That compares to the $8.8 billion to $8.9 billion the medium recorded during the 2006-07 upfront.

N.C. Event to Honor Beloved Hoops Coach

Raleigh, N.C. — Marking the 35th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that elevated women's scholastic athletic programs on a par with men's programs, CSTV and Time Warner Cable of Raleigh, N.C., will host a screening today (June 25) at an event honoring Kay Yow, the North Carolina State University women's basketball coach.

The CBS-owned network and the cable operator will screen an episode of interview series ONE2ONE featuring Yow, who talks openly her career, her faith and her battles with breast cancer. It will be held at the university's Talley Student Center Ballroom.

The ONE2ONE interview, conducted by CSTV's Debbie Antonelli, who played for Yow at N.C. State, airs on the network June 25 at 8 p.m., tipping off the channel's week-long “Salute to Women's Sports.”

GolTV-SCP DealDoesn't Reach Net

New York — The proposed deal that would have seen Dave Checketts SCP Worlwide take a majority stake in soccer-centric Gol TV was offsides.

GOL TV chief operating officer Rodrigo Lombrello and SCP executive Chris Bevilacqua said that while the framework for an agreement had been sculpted, the companies' respective boards declined to finalize the deal over “a variety of issues.”

The executives would not address whether the details involved the financials or executive-leadership issues.

SCP was expected to have taken an 80% ownership stake in Gol TV for some $200 million.

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