License fee expires soon, 20th close to inking for more $

ABC and 20th Century Fox Television are closing in on a deal that will keep “The Practice” on the Alphabet web for at least two more seasons, industry insiders confirm.

Current license agreement for the hit legal drama from David E. Kelley expires after this season, and there’d been speculation in recent months that 20th and ABC could be headed for the type of big-bucks showdown that marked NBC’s renegotiation with Warner Bros. Television for “ER,” or the touchy talks ongoing between 20th and the WB over “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” In recent months, speculation has also been building over a possible impasse between NBC and Paramount over a new license agreement for “Frasier.”

Nobody at ABC or 20th is talking, but sources say the two sides have reached a tentative verbal agreement on most of the major issues surrounding the “Practice” renegotiation. A final deal has not yet been hammered out, however, leaving open the possibility that the renegotiation could yet be derailed.

While details are hard to come by, insiders suggest 20th has been able to land a substantially higher license fee than the $1.6 million ABC currently pays — not surprising, considering how much of a linchpin the drama series has become. Alphabet will not be paying anywhere near the $13 million NBC shelled out for “ER” during that skein’s first license fee renegotiation.

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