Warner Bros. sacks "Curb", Entourage" in syndication

In a move that is seldom used involving off-network syndicated product, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution is removing Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage from broadcast syndication, effective in September.

The news broke Friday afternoon on Broadcasting & Cable’s website and Deadline Hollywood.

The request is coming from HBO, who asked sibling Warner Bros. (both are owned by Time Warner) to stop syndicating the series, even though the programs are only in the first year of a three-year all-barter contract with stations.

Targeted for late fringe time periods and edited for content, neither found an audience. Entourage and Curb each are averaging a 0.6 Nielsen live-plus-same day household rating, and underperformed year-ago time period averages and lead-in by double-digit margins. HBO’s request came with both series looking at time period downgrades into the wee hours of the morning in several markets.

Locally, both Entourage and Curb aired on WGN-TV, as part of a deal with the Tribune station group. Entourage aired at 11 p.m.; Curb at midnight. But in November 2010, WGN moved Curb to 12:30 a.m., as a result of low ratings.

Off-cable series have had a mixed track record in broadcast syndication, and in most recent years, they have been used mostly as time-period filler on broadcast stations. This fall, Twentieth Television will try its hand at distributing an off-cable show as it begins running It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on broadcast stations.

The termination of the syndication contracts do not effect the basic cable runs of each  program: Entourage continues to run on Spike while Curb continues its run on TV Guide Channel.

As for Warner Bros., the other new off-net sitcom it brought out to syndication this fall – The New Adventures of Old Christine – will remain, but it too have struggled, averaging around a 1.0 Nielsen rating so far this season. Christine was canceled by CBS last year.

The last time any off-network product was pulled from syndication before its contract expired was way back in 1987 when Lorimar-Telepictures (the predecessor to Warner Bros.) pulled reruns of Falcon Crest from syndication early due to its poor performance.