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Spike Snags The Shield

Spike TV last week outbid FX for off-network episodes of a series that put the Fox basic- cable network on the map: Sony’s The Shield. FX wanted the cable rerun rights to the series, but its programming budget is reserved primarily for original fare. Word in the industry is that FX chose not to match a winning off-net bid from Spike, preferring instead to put its money toward four series debuting this summer.

Spike, which anted up for The Shield since both skew heavily toward men 18-49, will air the series once a week beginning in March. With just 67 episodes completed after this coming season, the network would have burned through The Shield in a hurry if it chose to strip it on weekdays. The duration of Spike’s contract is said to be dependent on the life of the series, now entering its fifth season.

Tribune, meanwhile, has obtained the broadcast rights to The Shield for its 26 stations, under a two-year, all-barter weekend deal starting in September 2006.

The Spike pact marks the first time reruns of a key series have gone from one basic-cable network to another, which provides a third backend revenue stream to basic-cable program suppliers—such as Sony—beyond international and DVDs.

Industry estimates are that, with Spike’s cash-license fees and Sony’s retaining seven minutes of national-broadcast ad time, each episode should fetch in the mid six figures. That is far less than other closed-ended hours coming off broadcast networks, where they don’t have to contend with edgy fare like The Shield.

The series picked up a best supporting actress Emmy nomination recently for cast-addition Glenn Close.