TV Guide Net High on ‘Weeds’

After months of negotiating with parent company Lionsgate Entertainment, TV Guide Network has scooped up the off-net rights to Showtime’s dope drama Weeds.

Word that TV Guide Net was closing in on the Mary-Louise Parker vehicle began circulating in early January, but at the time, sources with knowledge of the discussions said the legal arrangements hadn’t fully been worked out. The network and owner Lionsgate ultimately came to an agreement on Wednesday.

Parker stars as Nancy Botwin, a suburban widow who deals high-grade marijuana in order to keep her head above water. Her performance earned her the 2006 Golden Globe for best actress in a TV series musical or comedy.

While financial terms were not disclosed, TV Guide Net has secured the rights to all six seasons of Weeds, plus future installments, should Showtime re-up the series. Season six bows on the premium network August 16.

At around the same time, TV Guide Net will launch a new prime-time programming block, stripping out recent acquisitions Ugly Betty, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Weeds. For its marquee properties, TV Guide Net will reduce its on-screen programming menu considerably, shrinking it to a transparent crawl on the very bottom of the screen.

Weeds is the most-watched original series in Showtime’s history, as the season five premiere drew 1.3 million viewers on June 15, 2009. An encore delivered 406,000 additional viewers, bringing the show’s cume to 1.71 million.

Lionsgate purchased TV Guide Net and its Web companion TV Guide Online in March 2009, for some $255 million in cash. A month after taking control of the property, the studio announced plans to revamp TVGN into a more traditionally programmed and formatted general-entertainment channel.

As TV Guide Net closed its deal to pick up Weeds from Lionsgate, the studio’s board of directors voted to quash investor Carl Icahn’s unsolicited takeover bid, calling the billionaire’s $700 million offer “financially inadequate.”