HBO Sopranos Delay Won’t Affect A&E

7/14/2006 9:45 AM Eastern

Pasadena, Calif. -- While James Gandolfini’s knee injury and HBO’s strategy of not putting the show up against the National Football League playoffs has pushed the final-season start date of The Sopranos from January until at least March, the actor’s mob-chieftain character will roll out into syndication early in 2007.

A&E Network said the postponement of the series’ final eight episodes will not deter its debut of The Sopranos in January -- a time frame in which the syndicated version of the series was expected to draft on the publicity for the series’ send-off on HBO.

A&E spokesman Michael Feeney downplayed HBO’s scheduling change, saying that there were other reasons a decision was made to begin The Sopranos’ exclusive syndie run in the new year.

“January has historically been a great time to launch shows in cable,” he added.

When A&E obtained The Sopranos for $190 million -- a cable record $2.5 million per episode -- it gained the right to begin airing the show in the fall of 2006.

No exact date has been announced for The Sopranos’ bow on A&E, although Feeney did say that it would be in early January. A&E is expected to deploy a stacked scheduling strategy, running a pair of episodes in essentially their original length -- typically around one hour -- twice per week. To accommodate commercials, A&E is expected to devote two-and-a-half hours to the block.

Feeney said A&E has written advertising deals for The Sopranos with a number of advertisers, but he would not identify the sponsors.

A&E will begin stripping another high-profile series acquisition, CSI Miami, weeknights in September at 8 p.m. following a Labor Day marathon of the forensic hit.