Sopranos Leads Cable’s Syndie March


Home Box Office, which is shopping around The Sopranos for roughly $1.8 million per episode, isn’t the only cable network looking to syndicate one of its marquee series this year.

HBO’s premium competitor, Showtime, plans to pitch its veteran scripted drama on gay life, Queer as Folk, for syndication -- the first time it would be making such a move with one of its key shows, according to network officials.

NBC Universal Television Distribution is also making preliminary plans to offer two original cable hits -- USA Network’s Monk and Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy -- for syndication.

“Cable is producing quality programming, and quality programming always has a back end,”said Arthur Hasson, executive vice president of NBC Universal TV Distribution, cable and ancillary. “We’re just starting to see that now.”

He added, “We won’t be making any official presentations on any specific product at NATPE [the National Association for Television Programming Executives’ convention]. But we’re poised and we’re getting ready on things like Monk.”

HBO has been having ongoing discussions with possible buyers -- basic-cable networks -- about The Sopranos,according to president of program distribution Scott Carlin. “In the cable world, there are a handful of [potential] buyers,” Carlin said.

The pay network doesn’t feel that it will be a problem to create an edited version of the gritty, violent series about a New Jersey mob family.

HBO officials wouldn’t comment on what price they are seeking for the award-wining drama, but a published report and an informed source put it at $1.8 million per episode. With all six seasons of the show, HBO will have 78 Sopranos installments to sell. The sixth and final season will debut on the network next year.

HBO’s deal to syndicate Sex and the City -- selling 94 half-hours to TBS for an exclusive until this September, when TV stations will also start airing the series -- is reportedly the biggest cable-syndication deal to date.

Comedy Central’s syndication deal for South Park, which starts airing on TV stations in September, was reportedly in the $100 million range over five years. The show, in edited version, has cleared in more than 85% of the country, in 48 of the top 50 markets.