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'The Shield’ Tests Syndication Waters

2/13/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Another edgy cable drama featuring a killer as its protagonist is heading for syndication — FX’s award-winning The Shield.

Sources confirmed last week that Sony Pictures Television, which distributes The Shield, is planning to pitch the off-network run of the show to cable outlets.

Officials at Sony declined to comment.

The move comes on the heels of Home Box Office’s record-breaking deal earlier this month to sell The Sopranos to A&E Network for $2.5 million an episode, a $190 million sale.

GRITTY IS HOT

With the market so hot for gritty cable programming, Sony reportedly thinks the time is right to find a buyer for The Shield.

The fourth season of The Shield, about a corrupt elite unit in the Los Angeles police department, debuts March 15.

The show, which helped put FX on the map, has won star Michael Chiklis an Emmy for his portrayal of a cop whose track record includes killing a fellow officer. He’s a lead character who, like Tony Soprano, is a murderer.

This coming season, Glenn Close is joining the cast of the show, which often pushes the envelope in terms of its violence and sexual content. Last season, one episode included a top male police officer being forced to perform oral sex on a villain.

Including this new season, there are 54 episodes of The Shield to sell, and Sony would have 67 installments if FX wants the program for a fifth season.

A&E will be running an edited version of The Sopranos.

No Editing Plans

In the case of The Shield, there is alternative footage that’s used when the show is sold to the international market, sources said. But at this point, there are no plans for the show to be edited for domestic syndication, as it currently runs ads.

Initially, FX had some trouble finding sponsors for The Shield, and early on in the show’s run some skittish advertisers pulled out due to its controversial content. But the program has succeeded in attracting sponsors.

Last season, The Shield’s third, its ratings slumped. Part of the reason Close is joining the cast is to attract more female viewers.

September