Producer Dick Wolf’s drama war-horse “Law & Order” will remain on NBC through spring 2005 as part of a blockbuster long-term renewal deal with Studios USA Television.
Pact means “Law” will survive through its 15th season, making it the longest-running police drama in TV history. “Gunsmoke,” which aired for 20 seasons on NBC, remains TV’s longest-running entertainment skein.
Peacock, which last spring ordered “Law” through 2002, has picked up an additional three seasons of the series. NBC will pay roughly $3 million per episode for the skein, with the license fee increasing slightly every year over the next five seasons, according to industry insiders. NBC had been shelling out around $2.5 million per seg.
In addition, NBC has also renewed Wolf-produced spinoff “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” through May 2002. Series had been picked up through next season.
NBC had previously made an episodic commitment to the Studios USA/Wolf Films drama “Deadline” for next fall. Assuming the show goes forward, Wolf will produce more than 10% of NBC primetime sked next year.
“The ‘Law & Order’ franchise will go down in the TV history books for its unparalleled ability to draw in more viewers even in its 10th season,” said NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier. “Dick Wolf and company continue to keep the shows fresh, relevant and compelling. (We) look forward to building and growing the franchise together.”
Studios USA topper David Kissinger called “Law & Order” one of the “most consistently distinctive programs on television, and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ has quickly established itself as a show that honors the high standard of its predecessor while dealing unflinchingly with some of the justice system’s most harrowing cases.”
In an interview with Daily Variety, Kissinger said the long-term deal made sense on many levels. “There was an enormous amount of mutual interest involved for all of us,” he said, noting the sheer length of the deal “allows us to protect the quality of the shows over time.”
Kissinger hinted that, with “Law’s” fate locked up for a long time, Studios USA will be announcing a round of deals with “Law” writers and producers over the next few months.
Despite its age, the original “Law” continues to be a Nielsen juggernaut, ranking No. 12 among all primetime series this season with an average 11.3 rating/18 share.
“SVU” has significantly boosted NBC’s Friday night average since moving there in January.
Renewals are also a major boost to the Gotham production scene, since “Law” and “SVU” are both filmed on location in New York.
Wolf called the long-term renewal pacts “a credit to (USA Networks prexy and chief operating officer Barry) Baker’s deal-making skills and (company topper Barry) Diller’s overall vision. It’s a win-win for everybody.”