‘Shield’ yields megadeal for Ryan

Showrunner signs for over $200K an episode

In the most lucrative writer deal in the history of basic cable, three divisions of News Corp. will shell out nearly $6 million over two years to keep Shawn Ryan on board as exec producer/showrunner of “The Shield.”

Fox TV Studios and FX are teaming to cover the cost associated with Ryan’s showrunning duties, which account for the bulk of the deal. Scribe will pull down north of $200,000 per episode, with 26 segs expected to be produced over two seasons — roughly the same number of episodes most broadcast dramas produce in one season.

“It’s changed my life,” Ryan said of “The Shield.” “And I wasn’t ready to move on to a new part of my life yet. I feel blessed that the show’s done well for them and they’ve done well by me.”

Ryan is already preparing for season three of “The Shield,” which will likely launch in January. Although FX hasn’t officially picked up a fourth season, given the show’s success and Ryan’s new deal, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Meanwhile, in addition to “The Shield,” Ryan will develop projects for broadcast and possibly cable TV during the second half of the two-year pact.

He’ll do so via 20th Century Fox TV, which is chipping in a modest amount of coin to cover development. Sony Pictures Television, which distributes “The Shield,” was not involved in the new deal.

It’s clear that Ryan’s focus will remain on “The Shield,” the gritty cop drama he created that has put FX on the map and made Ryan one of the hottest young scribes in Hollywood.

“The Shield” branded FX from the moment the show debuted in March 2002. Not only did series star Michael Chiklis surprise many by winning last year’s best drama actor Emmy, “The Shield” bested fierce competish such as “The Sopranos” to take this year’s best drama trophy at the Golden Globes.

Ensuring the skein maintains its quality was said to be key for FX, which is why the cabler stepped up as it did.

“He’s like what David Chase is to ‘The Sopranos,'” said Fox TV Studios topper David Grant. “It’s critical to have him back. ‘The Shield’ was just hitting its stride.”

Grant said Ryan’s devotion to the show contributed to his value as a scribe.

“His first focus is on ‘The Shield,'” Grant said. “He’s one of those guys who’s totally committed and completely authentic and passionate about his work. He thinks it and breathes it 24 hours a day and it shows.”

Gary Newman, prexy of 20th Century Fox TV, said the deal for Ryan was one “that only a News Corp. could figure out.”

“There’s an enormous incentive to get Shawn to continue to shepherd his breakthrough series that’s so important to FX,” he said. “Yet Shawn also has a desire to do network shows. We had a great meeting with him and realized it was a great match.”

Ryan’s no stranger to 20th, having written for the studio’s “Angel” under Joss Whedon. The scribe, who started his career writing for sitcoms (“My Two Dads”), said he hoped to dabble in both drama and comedy while creating new projects at 20th.

“In ‘The Shield’ we tend to go to a dark, heavy place a lot of the time, so it would be nice to branch out in other areas and do something that’s more family friendly or more accessible and not quite as controversial,” Ryan said.

Given “The Shield’s” shorter 13-episode orders, Ryan said he’d have plenty of time to focus on development after season three wraps.

“I’ll probably finish up the show in February or March and then take some time and develop a few things,” he said.

Despite the big bump for Ryan, industry insiders said “The Shield’s” overall cost makes the show a relative bargain compared to many of its broadcast brethren.

Deal was brokered by Matt Solo, the Shuman Co. and Michael Gendler.