Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Sopranos Syndication

I wasn't surprised to see that the Sopranos' syndication rights were sold today to a regular cable channel, A&E.

And not just because they had been rumored to be up for sale last month.

It was actually because I remember reading an article (maybe in Newsweek?) long ago, in between the first and the second season that talked about how they were carefully shooting two versions of every episode. One that was the full HBO version, and one that was designed for syndication with less profane dialog, less violence, and no nudity.

Apparently the creator had been trying to sell the show to a regular network, but ended up at HBO when no one else wanted the show. So even though they didn't have any broadcast standards to meet, he planned ahead for eventual syndication.

So the possibility exists the syndicated shows won't be a butchered embarrassment. I'm not saying they won't be, just that the possibility is there.

The episodes were sold for 2.5 million an episode, which is a record for a syndicated drama series. On one hand that seems like a lot for a show that will (most likely) be barely broadcast-able on regular cable. Especially a series they don't actually get to air until fall 2006, at which time the first season is going to be 6-7 years old.

On the other hand, there are only 13 shows per episode in an HBO season, and only 10 shows in the 6th season. That puts the total price tag at 187.5 million for the series. In TV terms, that doesn't seem like that much.

I think NBC was paying each of the Friends 1 million per episode for their final season. At, at least 6 million an episode for 23 episodes (one season of regular TV), that is 138 million just for that season. In Jack: Straight from the Gut, Jack Welch talks about trying to convince Jerry Seinfeld to do one more season, and offering him 100 million in GE stock.

So compared to that, 187.5 million for the whole series of The Sopranos doesn't seem all that outrageous.

No comments: