Warner Bros. TV’s “ER” will remain open on NBC until at least May 2006, while 20th Century Fox’s “Angel” — with new cast addition James Marsters– is taking flight for a fifth season on the WB.
Peacock has struck a new deal with WBTV and John Wells Prods. guaranteeing “ER” two more seasons beyond the show’s current pact, due to expire in May 2004. This means the hit medical drama, which remains a Nielsen powerhouse after 200 episodes, is guaranteed to be a part of NBC’s sked through the 2005-06 season — the show’s 12th.
NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker will announce the deal today at the web’s annual upfront presentation to advertisers.
Neither NBC nor WBTV would confirm details, though industry insiders said the Peacock won’t pay any more than it had been shelling out. Peacock’s last license fee deal, inked in 2000, was for roughly $8 million per seg; it’s possible the new deal is worth a tad less.
Whatever the pricetag, losing “ER” wasn’t an option for Zucker.
“It’s been No. 1 in adults 18-49 every season it’s been on the air,” Zucker said Sunday. “It’s had a fantastic season this year, with both a creative renaissance and in the ratings. It’s truly amazing how strong the show still is.”
While CBS has been chipping away at “ER” in total viewers with its Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “Without a Trace,” “ER” remains dominant in the key demo of adults 18-49. Its 200th episode last week outdrew both “Trace” and ABC’s “PrimeTime Live” combined among younger viewers.
Nothing that “from the day (‘ER’) went on the air . . . it hasn’t looked back,” Zucker said “ER” and the “Law & Order” mothership have proven to be enduring hits because of the auspices behind them.
“You have two incredible visionaries running these shows, both of whom have masterfully navigated the ups and downs of the last decade and kept their shows humming at a higher level than anything else on TV,” he said.
WBTV prexy Peter Roth said his studio was “thrilled to be part of the phenominal success that is ‘ER.'”
“This two-year pick up is yet another affirmation of the enormous value that this show holds to our studio, the network and to our audience,” Roth said.
‘Angel’ wings in
As for “Angel,” Frog has ordered another full season of the Joss Whedon-creative skein and will air the show Wednesdays at 9 p.m., with relocated hit “Smallville” as its lead-in. Frog has an option for a sixth season.
What’s more, Paradigm-repped Marsters has signed on to reprise his “Buffy” role as punker vamp Spike. Other “Buffy” regulars may also make guest appearances next season, while Whedon has vowed to write several scripts and direct episodes of the show.
Jeffrey Bell and Tim Minear will be exec producers/showrunners.
Charisma Carpenter, who plays Cordelia, is not expected to return as a series regular.
“Angel’s” recent ratings perfomance should have made it a shoo-in for a renewal.
Still, WB execs wanted to see how their drama development turned out, and, more importantly, needed to hammer out a new license fee deal with 20th. While “Angel” isn’t a particularly expensive skein to produce, it doesn’t do very well in repeats, making it tougher for the Frog to turn a profit on the show.
“Until we knew at what price we could close a deal for the series, as well as what the rest of our schedule cost, we couldn’t make the call,” WB Entertainment chief Jordan Levin said.
Still, unlike the rancorous Frog-20th negotiation over “Angel” sibling “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Levin said the “Angel” talks repped “a cordial, non-emotional negotiation.
“It’s a deal that’s acceptable for both of us, and also ultimately respects the fans of the collective ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ mythologies,” Levin said.