Skein gets second chance at cabler

One of the networks that infamously passed on “Desperate Housewives” the first time around has drawn a second chance at it.

Lifetime appears to have landed rerun rights to Buena Vista TV’s “Housewives” after a spirited battle with TBS, which also was hot on adding the show to its lineup of comedy hits.

Women’s cabler will get “Housewives” in two forms: the five-a-week reruns, beginning in fall 2008, and — perhaps more important — the repurposing of new episodes a few days after their 9 p.m. Sunday run on ABC. Latter element will kick off as soon as Lifetime seals the deal.

The parties have drafted the contract for the agreement, which Buena Vista is taking to profit participants before Lifetime makes it official. Buena Vista and the net were mum on license fees, but industry estimates put the overall price at about $500,000 an hour.

Under a previous regime, Lifetime was one of several nets that passed on the “Housewives” spec script from creator Marc Cherry. He already has a loose connection to the cabler: Cherry began his career on “The Golden Girls,” the NBC laffer that’s flourished in repeats on Lifetime.

The arrival of “Housewives” will give a much-needed boost to the cabler, which has suffered disappointing ratings from its original series “Cheerleader Nation” and reruns of “Frasier,” both of which joined the schedule last month. Repeats of “Housewives” have held up surprisingly well on ABC, but they don’t approach the rerun power of procedurals like “CSI” and “Law & Order.”

Industry expectation is that the once-a-week repurposed episodes of “Housewives” will draw a solid audience of people who can’t get enough of the tongue-in-cheek suburban shenanigans.

Multiple-run repeats that start in 2008-09 could have a more difficult time because even though the show is heavy on comedy, it still contains elements of serialized drama. Serials tend to fall off drastically in repeats.

In its negotiations with Buena Vista, Turner was treating “Housewives” as a comedy. Insiders said execs would have scheduled it on TBS alongside sitcoms “Seinfeld,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Sex and the City”; TNT focuses on one-hour dramas.

Once Buena Vista locks up the “Housewives” deal, it plans to market reruns of “Lost” to basic-cable networks and follow that up with what’s likely to be the big revenue generator, repeats of “Grey’s Anatomy,” which could fetch more than $1 million an hour.

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