Tribune Broadcasting has picked up HBO’s Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm for all of its 23 stations to premiere in fall 2010, according to Sean Compton, Tribune’s senior vice president of programming and entertainment, Scott Carlin, HBO’s president of domestic distribution and Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD).
“I think these shows match up perfectly with some of our most successful shows, such as Two and a Half Men and Family Guy,” says Compton. “These HBO programs allow us to bring something fresh and original to the majority of our viewers, given HBO’s limited distribution. Advertisers also will have their first chance to associate their brands with these shows.”
Curb and Entourage each will air as strips, running five days a week in late fringe. Each show will have one weekend run as well.
“Tribune stations have a long tradition of successfully programming adult sitcoms in late fringe,” said Werner. “Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage represent ‘A’ sitcoms for that audience. We are thrilled during these challenging times to have crafted an arrangement that offers stations flexibility and tremendous upside.”
Werner also points out that with the broadcast networks and TBS sticking with talk in late fringe, it makes sense for stations to counter-program with adult comedies. “Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage were produced specifically for the 10 p.m. hour on HBO. They are attuned to the late-fringe audience. For the syndicated marketplace, these shows are perfectly oriented towards independent TV stations that have run sitcoms in those time periods for decades with great success.”
Tribune has secured each show for three years in all-barter deals, with a three-minute national and four-minute local advertising split in each show.
“That’s an accommodation to the times,” says Carlin. “A few years ago, we would have gotten significant cash license fees and less barter for these shows. But the economics of the station business dictated coming up with a creative alternative to the old model. This way, Tribune gets to leverage an asset they have in excess right now, their inventory, without having to write a check. There’s tremendous upside for these guys because they can make a lot of money on the show without putting their own cash at risk.”
Meanwhile, HBO will earn $600,000-plus per episode on its sale of Entourage to MTV Network’s Spike and Comedy Central, according to sources. Entourage premieres on Spike in January 2010.
Entourage, executive produced by Doug Ellin and based very loosely on the life of movie star Mark Wahlberg, debuted on HBO in 2004, and will have 78 episodes ready to go when the show premieres in broadcast syndication. The show’s sixth season, in production now, will debut in the middle of this year.
Curb Your Enthusiasm, created by Seinfeld’s Larry David, debuted on HBO in 2000. Season seven is in production and expected to premiere on HBO this fall, making 70 episodes available by fall 2010.
As per Tribune’s contract with HBO, Tribune is not renewing HBO’s Sex and the City, and the show will leave Tribune’s air this fall. It will remain on TBS, however, which has licensed the show through 2012. After that, “I expect a very robust second cycle for that show,” says Carlin.