Much-buzzed reality series heading to cable network

Sarah Palin to Discovery? You betcha.

Discovery Communications is expected to announce soon that it has won the Sarah Palin tourney. The cabler had been a frontrunner to land the untitled Alaska-themed series, to be produced by Mark Burnett Prods., along with A&E.

Word emerged Monday, however, that A&E was likely no longer in the running, leaving Discovery the presumptive winner.

Discovery execs remain mum, so a deal could still fall through. A number of the cabler’s top execs were in Chicago on Tuesday for a mini-upfront presentation. Palin didn’t make an appearance there, but she could be in attendance when Discovery conducts its formal upfront in New York on April 8.

Show is believed to have fetched more than $1 million an episode — a hefty pricetag for a freshman unscripted cable skein. According to insiders, producers normally fetch $200,000 to

$400,000 an hour at Discovery.

But this, of course, is not just your average unscripted cable skein. The controversial Palin is seen as a mega-draw — both among her rabid fans, as well as curiosity seekers who might tune in to see how the former Alaska governor presents herself.

“Sarah Palin’s Alaska” will center on interesting characters, traditions and attractions in the 49th state — with the ex-VP candidate as a guide. Burnett and Palin pitched the show to the Big Four nets, but given the travelogue nature of the series, cable expressed more interest in the project.

Discovery ultimately made the most sense for the project. Palin happened to make a brief appearance on Discovery’s 2008 doc “Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod,” which was shot before she became a household name.

Palin may have also been concerned over being lumped in with some of A&E’s stars — such as Gene Simmons or Dog the Bounty Hunter. On the flip side, as A&E focuses on interesting characters and their lives, a travelogue hosted by Palin might have been a strange fit. (Show probably would have also run on A&E sibling nets History and/or Lifetime, where it would have made more sense.)

At Discovery, it’s still unclear which network (or multiple networks) the Palin show might pop up on, including TLC or Oprah Winfrey’s OWN.

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