The WB Network’s WB 100-Plus Station Group has inked its first programming deal with a major distrib outside of the Time Warner family, picking up the weekend rerun rights to “The Pretender” from Fox’s Twentieth TV beginning in fall 2000.

The WB 100-Plus is an ad-hoc web of cable channels that carry the WB Network in the nation’s smallest TV markets, ranked by market size at No. 100 through 210. The WB 100-Plus service bowed last September, but until now, rival majors have shied away from licensing syndie fare to the group.

“This is a milestone in the successful growth of the WB 100-Plus Station Group,” said Lynn Stepanian, veepee of programming for the group. “Twentieth Television has demonstrated their faith in our ability to perform by choosing us as the 100-plus home for one of their most successful shows.”

Rival distribs have been wary of licensing to the WB 100-Plus because the cable channels do not have the same reach as broadcast stations in those markets and therefore, the ratings and advertising rates generated by those channels are lower.

Also, the WB 100-Plus is still in the rollout stage and does not have channels up and running in all 110 markets. As of this week, the WB 100-Plus was cleared in 89 markets covering 3.5 million cable subscribers, out of a total of 8 million cable subs available in markets 100-210.

Twentieth TV opted to go with the WB 100-Plus with “Pretender,” a solid but not spectacular performer for NBC, because there is a glut of off-network hours now vying for weekend timeslots on broadcast stations. Smaller TV markets generally have only three or four broadcast TV stations, which is why the WB weblet turned to cable for distribution in the hinterlands.

And while the WB 100-Plus may have limited reach, signing with the group allows Twentieth to clear “The Pretender” in 89 markets, and counting, in a single deal. The one-stop-shopping aspect of the WB 100-Plus is sure to boost its appeal to outside distribs over the long term, particularly because sales in the bottom 100 markets tend to be the least lucrative for distribs.