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CBS signs a Hip sitcom deal

CBS, still on the prowl for sitcoms that appeal to teens and young adults, has signed a two-year deal with HBO Independent Prods. (HIP), supplier of the hit Fox comedy “Martin.”

The deal highlights one significant recent network trend: CBS will get the worldwide-syndication rights to any sitcoms it commissions from HIP. Until this year, none of the Big Three networks could have engineered such a deal because the FCC’s financial interest and syndication rules barred the webs from distributing off-network series in the U.S. But the Federal Communications Commission officially abolished the fin-syn rules last week.

Leslie Moonves, president of CBS Entertainment, compares the distribution arrangement with HIP to the one CBS struck with Steven Bochco earlier this year and to the contracts ABC signed with DreamWorks and Brillstein-Grey, all of which give the networks domestic and foreign syndication of any series that come out of the deals.

The CBS-HIP contract reunites former colleagues because Moonves ran the network-production arm of Warner Bros, for a number of years, where he frequently worked with Jeff Bewkes, president and CEO of HBO – a subsidiary of Time Warner – and Chris Albrecht, president of HIP and of original programming for HBO.

In addition to the series deal, CBS has agreed to buy at least two made-for-cable movies, which will run on the network about 16 months after their premiere on HBO. In the past, NBC scheduled the HBO movie “And the Band Played On” and Fox ran HBO’s “Barbarians at the Gates,” among other HBO pictures.

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