Bays, Thomas to stay with show through 2010

Looking to lock up the creators of one of TV’s few successful young comedies, 20th Century Fox TV has inked a deal to keep “How I Met Your Mother” showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas on the lot through 2010.

Multiyear pact, worth mid-seven figures over the length of the agreement, covers the former “Late Show With David Letterman” scribes’ services as showrunners on the CBS skein. It also anticipates Bays and Thomas developing new projects for 20th.

In addition to their producing and writing fees, new deal gives Bays and Thomas an increased ownership stake in “How I Met Your Mother.”

Execs at 20th have been actively working to sew up the talent behind their key comedies. Studio recently renewed its overall deal with “My Name Is Earl” creator Greg Garcia.

“Earl” and “How I Met Your Mother” are considered 20th’s best shots of landing a half-hour live-action comedy in the lucrative syndication marketplace over the next couple of years. Keeping the shows on track creatively is thus a major priority for the studio.

“We wanted to continue servicing a show we feel is ultimately going to be financially successful for the studio,” said 20th prexy Gary Newman, who said Bays and Thomas “have shown themselves to be incredibly versatile talents” at a relatively young age.

Newman said he looks forward to Bays and Thomas developing, but he won’t be rushing them.

“The marketplace for comedy is so difficult, when you’ve created a little foothold, you’d be insane to move your showrunners off a show,” he said.

Bays and Thomas said staying put at 20th wasn’t a tough call.

“When we came here from Letterman, ‘HIMYM’ was the first pilot we ever wrote, and working with 20th, they got it on the air,” Thomas said. “We like those statistics.”

What’s more, Bays added, “Craig just bought a house in Culver City, and the drive from anywhere else would be unbearable.”

Scribes echoed Newman’s take on the possibility of new development.

“It’s something we want to do in the future, but for now, we’re focusing all our efforts on this show,” Bays said.

Since premiering in fall 2005, “How I Met Your Mother” has been a solid ratings performer in the Eye’s Monday comedy block. This fall, it moved into the key 8 p.m. leadoff position and managed to hold onto its audience despite tough competish from NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” and Fox’s “Prison Break.”

More than ratings, however, laffer has generated media buzz, something few CBS skeins — and not many half-hour comedies — are doing these days.

Skein landed on a number of year-end top 10 lists. And a Google search of the show’s title brings back more than 1.8 million results — nearly double the number generated by higher-rated (and longer-running) laffers such as CBS’ “Two and a Half Men.”

Scribes are repped by UTA, 3 Arts and Jared Levine.

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