ABC’s cash and ‘Carey’

Two-year deal nets WB TV more than $105 mil

ABC will pay Warner Bros. Television more than $105 million over the next two years as part of a new multiyear deal that keeps “The Drew Carey Show” on the Alphabet web through spring 2002.

Meanwhile, “Drew” creator and exec producer Bruce Helford has quietly extended his overall deal with WBTV, inking a new pact that will keep him at the studio until 2004. Deal gives Helford a not insignificant bump in coin over his prior deal, which paid him $5 million a year over four years (Daily Variety, Feb. 26, 1998.)

As for “Drew,” ABC had already picked up the laffer through May 2000. The new pact covers the show’s sixth and seventh seasons and calls for WBTV to produce 26 segs of “Drew” per season at a cost to ABC of around $2.2 million; a standard sitcom order is for 22 segs.

Carey and all of the main “Drew” cast are all locked in for seasons six and seven of the show. Helford said he’s “excited” about the “Drew” pickup and is looking forward to staying with the skein.

“I ain’t leaving ‘The Drew Carey Show,’ ” he told Daily Variety. “It’s been the best experience of my life. It’s like a big party that’s been going on for five years, and Drew and I want to work together as long as possible.”

Helford will be a busy man over the next few months. In addition to running “Drew,” he’s exec producing ABC’s “Norm” and creating a fall 2000 laffer starring Nikki Cox for the WB. He’s also involved with the upcoming WB toon comedy “The Oblongs.”

While still not the norm, two-year renewals are becoming less unusual as webs try to lock up key assets for as long as possible in an attempt to keep license fee expenses down. Fox Broadcasting recently inked a two-year deal for “That ’70s Show,” while ABC has given similar pickups to “The Practice” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

“Drew” has been one of ABC’s most consistent comedy performers, anchoring the net’s Wednesday comedy block. So far this season, the show is averaging 13.45 million viewers each week at 9 p.m. and a 7.4 rating/19 share with the all-important demo group of adults 18-49. It regularly wins its timeslot with both groups and ranks as the eighth-highest-rated laffer with viewers under 50 this season.

Created and exec produced by Bruce Helford, “Drew” stars comic Drew Carey as a Cleveland personnel manager. Kathy Kinney, Diedrich Bader, Christa Miller and Ryan Stiles also star.

Carey and Helford are repped by UTA.

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