Lifetime is about to pony up about $ 16.4 million for the cable rights to the 164 half-hours of “Designing Women,” making it the channel’s biggest rerun-sitcom purchase.

Although Lifetime executives declined to comment on the transaction, sources say the deal is unusual in that “Women” will not be exclusive to Lifetime. TV stations throughout the country started stripping the reruns in the fall of 1992 on two-year deals in which Columbia Pictures TV, the distributor of “Women,” agreed to forego cash in exchange for carving three minutes out of each telecast for sale to national advertisers. Now Columbia is going back to the stations and asking for cash for five-year renewals.

Bob Clark, program director of KHTV Houston, one of the stations that has renewed “Women,” says the clause that gave him the most difficulty was the prohibition on his stripping the show between 6 and 8 p.m., Central time, because that’s when Lifetime will be double-running the show weekdays.

Lifetime plans

The significance of the deal for Lifetime is that it comes in the context of the cabler’s decision to roll out three new daytime strips, a weekly standup-comedy series and a batch of original movies, for a total production budget of $50 million to $ 60 million.

The new strips, all of which will start June 6, are:

“Our Home,” an hourlong show offering advice on everything from bedroom wallpaper to the best family vacation spots. Marc Summers (“Super Sloppy Double Dare”) is the host, with a female co-host TBA. Viacom and Lifetime are co-producers.

“The Marriage Counselor,” a half-hour dramatic series hosted by Dr. Wendy LeDoux, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Actors will play the part of couples whose marriages are in trouble. The production house is Empire TV of Canada.

“The 2 P.M. Project,” a one-hour live talkshow to be hosted by two women, still to be cast. The one requirement for the job is that the women be married and have kids.

The weekly hourlong standup-comedy show, to be called “Girls’ Night Out,” debuts April 2 at 10 p.m. Taped in front of a live audience at a club called the Grand in Manhattan, the show will feature a new female celebrity host each week, introducing five women comics. TeleAmerica is the production company, with Larry O’Daly (“An Evening at the Improv”) as exec producer.

The original movies either in production or in development include Lifetime’s first miniseries, “Lie Down with Lions,” based on the Ken Follett bestseller, starring Marg Helgenberger, Omar Sharif and Timothy Dalton.

Two movies originally made for theatrical release will instead premiere on Lifetime. The first is Interscope Communications’ “A Part of the Family,” a drama starring Robert Carradine, Elizabeth Arlen and Shirley Knight and directed by David Madden.

Steven Surjik (“Wayne’s World 2″) helms the second movie, “Mary Silliman’s War,” a true story set during the American Revolution. Shot in Canada, it’s a co-production of Heritage Films of L.A. and Citadel Films of Nova Scotia.

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