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A&E pays record fee for ''Sopranos''

A&E pays record fee for ”Sopranos.” The cable channel will syndicate cleaned-up episodes of HBO’s mob drama next fall, at a cost of $2.5 million per show

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James Gandolfini, The Sopranos

Move over, Gottis, there’s a new Family coming to A&E: the Sopranos. The cable network announced on Monday that it had purchased the syndication rights to The Sopranos and will begin airing the entire series in fall 2006, after it completes its six-season run on HBO. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the fee was widely reported in the New York Times and elsewhere as $2.5 million per episode. (By the end of the show’s run, there should be 75 episodes, worth a total of $187.5 million to HBO.) That’s a record episode fee for a syndicated series (beating a precedent set last month when Bravo and USA bought up Law and Order: Criminal Intent for $1.9 million per episode), but A&E badly needed a popular drama to replace the highly rated reruns of the flagship Law & Order series it lost to TNT a couple years ago.

Of course, the show will have to be re-edited to tone down the nudity, profanity, and violence that would make A&E’s advertisers squeamish, but the channel said it would work with HBO on custom edits of the episodes. It shouldn’t be that hard; according to the Times, The Sopranos shot many scenes with alternate, less harsh dialogue with an eye toward the show’s eventual sale, just as HBO’s Sex and the City did, easing the editing process for that show’s successful syndication on TBS. A source close to the deal said that A&E would consider airing uncensored episodes late at night.

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