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Lifetime renewing ‘Strong’ prescription

Cabler buys exclu rights through 2010

NEW YORK — Lifetime has renewed Sunday night bellwether series “Strong Medicine” from Sony Pictures TV for a fifth season of 22 original hours, making it the longest-running scripted series in the network’s 19-year history.

As part of the deal, Lifetime has bought exclusive rights to the reruns of “Medicine” through 2010. Lifetime will be able to play the episodes on any night, with no carve-out for weekend TV syndication during that period.

The parties declined to discuss financial terms, but “Medicine,” shot in Los Angeles, costs about $1.5 million an hour to produce, and Lifetime pays close to the full production costs in license fees.

For Russ Krasnoff, president of programming and production for Sony Pictures TV, the renewal of “Medicine” “justifies our belief that there’s a real business in producing scripted original drama for basic cable.”

Sony produces another hit cable drama, “The Shield,” about to start its third 13-episode cycle on FX. Sony also has completed two one-hour pilots, “Huff,” with Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt, for Showtime; and “Rescue Me” (tentative title), with Dennis Leary, for FX. The company is in production on a third one-hour pilot, “Dead Lawyers,” with F. Murray Abraham, for the Sci Fi Channel.

Original plan

Lynn Picard, executive VP and general manager of Lifetime TV, said renewal of “Medicine” gives cabler the cachet of scheduling more original scripted weekly hours than any other basic cable network.

Lifetime has three other dramas in its lineup: “The Division,” going into its fourth season as a Sunday night companion to “Medicine,” and two Saturday night shows just completing their 18-episode rookie years: “1 800 Missing” and “Wild Card.”

Whoopi Goldberg and Tammy Ader are executive producers of “Medicine,” which stars Patricia Richardson and Rosa Blasi.

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