'Ugly Betty' heads to TV Guide Network

Off-net license fee said to be about $200,000 per episode

In its first major acquisition since it changed programming direction under its new ownership, the TV Guide Network has picked up the cable off-network rights to ABC's dramedy "Ugly Betty."

Under the deal with Disney-ABC Domestic TV, TV Guide will begin repurposing "Betty" this fall, following the show's Oct. 9 season premiere. The cable network will air the series' new installments within two weeks of their run on ABC. (The episodes will also be available on Hulu.com and ABC.com the day after their initial broadcast on ABC.)

Additionally, TV Guide will run "Betty" as a weekly strip beginning in fall 2010 when TVGuide.com will have rights to stream up to five "Ugly Betty" episodes at a time.

Both sides declined comment on the financials of the deal, but sources pegged the license fee at about $200,000 per episode.

Ryan O'Hara, president of TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com, said "Betty" "will become a cornerstone of TV Guide Network's schedule."

"It gives us really good stability," he said. "We've had spikes with events but never a great amount of stability, and 'Betty' will give us that. It will be on every night of the week in primetime for years to come."

TV Guide Network is owned by Lionsgate and JPMorgan Chase's One Equity Partners after Lionsgate acquired the company from Macrovision for $255 million in March and subsequently sold a 49% stake to One Equity Partners.

In the past few months, TV Guide had signaled a shift in its programming focus toward acquiring product to complement original programs and in-house produced shows and specials.

In the spring, it bid on HBO's comedy "Entourage," which went to Spike TV for about $600,000 an episode, and acquired reruns of MTV's "Punk'd."

In June, the network scaled back several in-house produced series, canceling the weekly talk show "TV Watercooler," turning daily entertainment newsmagazine "Hollywood 411" into a weekly program and made weekly series "Infanity" into specials.

TV Guide is next looking to make talent moves, signing people as new anchors and stars of new unscripted series, and pursuing new original series.