Showtime Will Tackle NFL, Spielberg Sitcom


Showtime has tackled the National Football League's award-winning highlights show Inside The NFL, four months after competitor Home Box Office punted it away.

Showtime and CBS Sports on Tuesday announced a one-year deal with the NFL to distribute the 31-year-old series on the pay service. Showtime will run the weekly series throughout the 2008-09 NFL season, beginning Sept. 10 and ending Feb. 11, 2009, said network officials.

The show will be produced by CBS Sports and NFL Films. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Showtime chairman and CEO Matt Blank added the network is “thrilled to be joining the successful partnership of CBS Sports and the NFL in presenting the show to our subscribers. It's a perfect fit with our original scripted series and sports programming.”

HBO Sports, which had aired the series since its inception in 1977, abruptly pulled the plug on the series in February after the show's wrap-up coverage of Super Bowl XLII. HBO Sports president Ross Greenberg said at the time that the show had run its course, adding that fans can access NFL highlights on other basic cable networks as well as the Internet.

Greenburg said in a statement that HBO “had 31 terrific years with NFL Films … we wish them well.”

In other Showtime programming news, the pay service has ordered 12 episodes of the Steven Spielberg-produced half-hour comedy series The United States of Tara. The series, starring Toni Collette as a wife and mother who suffers from dissociative identity (or multiple personality) disorder, will premiere later this year.

The network also signed veteran actor Jimmy Smits to join the cast of its top-rated drama series, Dexter. Smits will be featured in 10 of the third season's 12 episodes, which are scheduled to premiere this fall.

On the ratings front, Showtime's June 3 second-season climax of The Tudors drew 852,000 viewers for its sophomore finale, 83% above the 465,000 viewers that tuned in to the show's season-one finale, Showtime officials said.

The 9 p.m. telecast is also the second-highest for the series, trailing only the 964,000 viewers for the show's April 1, 2007 debut.

The season-two finale, along with an 11 p.m. replay, drew a combined 1 million viewers, 59% above last year's 668,000 combined audience for last year's finale.