Cuatro spars with ‘Spartacus’

Show bolsters Spanish web's rep for edgy U.S. fare

MADRID — Spanish free-to-air broadcaster Cuatro will air the first season of U.S. pay TV network Starz’ “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.”

The sword-and-sandal testosterone ride joins a slew of foreign series, including the Fox-aired “House,” and ABC’s “Castle” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Pact was sealed before Cuatro came under the ownership of rival broadcaster Telecinco.

“Spartacus” will help maintain Cuatro’s brand in the free-to-air market as an appointment-TV channel for edgier U.S. fare.

“Cuatro has always had an aggressive strategy for acquiring new series and edgier fare,” said Ghislain Barrois, Telecinco Group director of acquisitions, citing Cuatro’s pick-ups of “Dexter” and “Californication.”

Telecinco-Cuatro’s aim is for “Spartacus” to play as event TV, he added, pointing to “Pillars of the Earth,” which screened to an exceptional 24.7% share average and 4.2 million viewers in 2010.

“Spartacus,” which will bow on Cuatro primetime in February, does not look likely to raise concerns in Spain over its full-frontal nudity or violence.

“Gory and graphic are not a problem here,” Barrois said.

AMC zombie skein “The Walking Dead” aired primetime in January on free-to-air web La Sexta, setting channel ratings records.

“Spartacus” has already had a premium paybox run on Spain’s Canal Plus after Spanish conglom Prisa, which then owned both Canal Plus and Cuatro, acquired first season pay and free-to-air rights.