It didn’t take new conglom NBC Universal long to lock up its most valuable employee: Dick Wolf has sealed a deal that keeps the “Law & Order” bossman firmly entrenched there through June 2008.
As part of the deal, NBC has also picked up Wolf’s “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” through the 2005-06 season. And the fourth installment of the “Law & Order” franchise, “Trial by Jury,” is now officially on the boards and will likely premiere sometime next midseason.
All told, the Wolf pact — which the Peacock had been anxious to finalize prior to next week’s upfront presentations — could be worth well north of $1 billion (Daily Variety, May 4). That includes Wolf’s fees, as well as the license deals for all four shows.
NBC Universal TV Group topper Jeff Zucker called the new agreement a “hugely important deal” for the net, while NBC Universal TV Studio co-prexy Angela Bromstad said Wolf will be playing a bigger role inside the merged production shingle.
“I think (making a deal with Wolf) was clearly so vital and probably the first step toward merging,” Bromstad said. “When you see how you can tie together what he’s done for Universal and what he’s done for the NBC network, it’s a perfect marriage.”
Deal was especially important to keep “Law & Order: SVU” running; Peacock’s deal for the Chris Meloni/Mariska Hargitay drama was set to expire at the end of this season.
Meanwhile, “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: CI” had already been locked up through 2005; new deal essentially adds another year to those shows’ licenses. Original-recipe “Law & Order” is now a firm go through its 16th season, making it the second-longest running drama in TV history (behind “Gunsmoke”) — and the longest-ever running cop show.
“I’ve been on the air at NBC continuously for the past 20 years, and this new deal means that I could be as lucky for the next 20,” Wolf said. ” ‘Synergy’ has become an overused word, but the concept of a true partnership never goes out of style.”
Wolf had been the common link between NBC and Universal long before the Peacock contemplated acquiring the studio. Universal had aggressively leveraged the success of “L&O” to score key concessions from the network, including rights to repurpose the show’s spinoffs on USA Network.
The “Law & Order” deals will be the last in which NBC negotiated across the table from a separately owned entity, Universal Network TV. With the NBC Universal marriage officially consummated, the Peacock now owns the “L&O” franchise — by far the net’s most important asset –through its NBC Universal Television division.
As for Wolf Films, the producer had previously been locked in with the studio (formerly Universal TV, then Studios USA TV, then Universal Network TV, and now NBC Universal TV) through August 2006.
“I think Dick knows how important he is to the network, how he’s been treated by NBC, and that there’s a tremendous respect for him here,” Bromstad said.
Indeed, all three “Law & Order” series consistently win their time periods: “Law & Order” has averaged a 5.4 rating/15 share among adults 18-49 this season, while “Law & Order: SVU” averages a 4.9/13 and “Law & Order: CI” pulls a 4.6/11.
“Trial by Jury,” which Wolf will exec produce with Walon Green, will take place entirely inside a courthouse.
Wolf’s deal was brokered by UTA and attorney Cliff Gilbert-Lurie.