For all the posturing and complaining that preceded it, the Carsey-Werner Co. and ABC came to terms rather quickly on a renewal of “Roseanne” that will extend the high-rated sitcom three more years, through the 1996-97 season.
Terms weren’t officially disclosed, but sources estimate the deal at more than the $ 2 million per-episode license fee that the series received in its last negotiation, or a commitment of more than $ 150 million — and probably closer to $ 200 million — by ABC over the term of the deal.
Tom Arnold, one of the show’s exec producers, suggested in January that the producers were considering a three-year deal. The last pact was a two-year arrangement for a total of 50 installments at $ 2 million each. (Paramount’s “Cheers” at one point was garnering about $ 2.5 million per segment from NBC.)
Any doubt surrounding the renewal stemmed largely from acrimony last season over ABC’s cancellation of “The Jackie Thomas Show.” Roseanne Arnold maintained in various interviews that ABC officials lied to her about the show’s future, at one point threatening on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” to take her show to another network.
Because “Roseanne” is produced by Carsey-Werner, that wasn’t the sort of action the star could take unilaterally, but the Arnolds’ involvement in the show meant the threat was taken seriously.
CBS Entertainment prexy Jeff Sagansky, who has consistently stated his admiration for “Roseanne,” bought a series starring Tom Arnold, “Tom.” Many saw that deal as a means of improving the Eye web’s position should ABC and the Arnolds be unable to come to terms.
Still, sources say CBS realized it was an extreme longshot that “Roseanne” would leave ABC. “Rarely do these top-of-the-line shows jump networks,” said one production source.
Past series that have made such a switch, such as “Matlock,””In the Heat of the Night” and “Getting By,” have generally been mid-level performers, not the sort of signature shows that help define a network and, in the case of “Roseanne,” bolster an entire night of programming.
ABC has also had other negotiating tools, last spring extending a non-exclusive, multi-series commitment to the Arnolds’ Wapello County Prods., who have since laid off those commitments at Warner Bros. TV.
The network also has a degree of leverage with Carsey-Werner, whose first-year sitcom, “Grace Under Fire,” is situated behind TV’s top-rated sitcom, “Home Improvement,” and would undoubtedly like to retain that spot.
ABC TV Network Group prez Robert Iger, who drew most of Arnold’s wrath last spring in relation to “Jackie Thomas,” was in Los Angeles Friday for the daylong negotiating session that closed the deal.
Privately, ABC officials have noted that the network has shown its loyalty to the Arnolds, standing by Roseanne through many tenuous moments.