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Sources: Spike Nears 'Entourage' Deal

Spike TV is closing in on a deal to acquire off-network cable rights to HBO's Entourage, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

While details of the deal are still being hammered out, one of Spike's sister networks—most likely Comedy Central—is expected to get a window to televise the show when it becomes available in 2010. Terms such as windows, exclusivity and license fees have not been finalized.

Spike has been aggressively boosting its original comedy programming of late. The guy-targeting cabler greenlit two comedies earlier this year, sports bar-set Players and college football-themed Blue Mountain State. It also has a number of other scripted comedies in development. Entourage will give Spike a launching pad for the new comedy programs.

The pact would mark the second deal between Spike and HBO this year. The MTV Networks-owned channel acquired the rights last month to rerun HBO World War II miniseries Band of Brothers. The show had aired previously on History.

HBO went to market with Entourage last month, as reported first by B&C. The company is also out selling the off-net run of Curb Your Enthusiasm and a new broadcast syndication cycle of Sex and the City (see “HBO Opens Syndie Sales,” March 9).

Sex and the City was the first series HBO sold into syndication, and was done so in a then-unusual windowing between cable network TBS and local stations. TBS got the show exclusively for 18 months, running it two nights per week. Then the broadcast window opened up, allowing stations to strip the comedy.

While that arrangement could be applied to Entourage, HBO President of Domestic Distribution Scott Carlin told B&C in March that terms and windows for the show will be determined based on buyers' needs, availability and the best offer.

“There is no fixed template,” Carlin said. “We'll adapt to the best opportunity.” Curb Your Enthusiasm has yet to find a basic-cable home.

While many people in the industry expected HBO to take Entourage out sooner in its life cycle, when it was at the height of its buzz, at least two new off-net comedy bidders were serious contenders for the series, according to sources. E! Entertainment Television and TV Guide Network, both of which almost exclusively program unscripted fare, also made bids for the comedy.

TV Guide Network, which was acquired by Lionsgate in January, purchased the rights to VH1 programs such as The Surreal Life, Flavor of Love and My Fair Brady in 2007. That deal would expire in 2010, which is when Entourage would have become available to the network.