NBC sued Dick Wolf, one its biggest program suppliers on Friday, asking the court for an interpretation of a contract provision that gives Wolf executive producer fees if and when any of the three “Law and Order” series are cancelled.
The suit, which was filed in L.A. Superior Court by Scott Edelman of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, seeks declaratory relief or reformation of the contract. No money damages are sought.
According to the complaint, a 2004 agreement between the parties contained a 48-episode guarantee. NBC contends that the guarantee is like a “pay or play deal,” providing Wolf with one additional year of executive producer fees for shows not actually produced after the last one-season order by NBC. Alternatively, if the last order by NBC is a two-season order, NBC would not have to pay Wolf for any episodes not actually produced.
In May, Wolf notified NBC that he had a different interpretation of the contract. Wolf contends it is like a “kill fee,” under which he is entitled to a two-year severance package once a “Law & Order” show is not renewed. NBC claims that interpretation of the contract would provide Wolf with an unintended windfall of millions of dollars. The parties have been in negotiations since September, but have been unable to resolve their differences without litigation.
In a statement, an NBC spokesperson said, “NBC and Universal Media Studios value their relationship with Dick Wolf. This dispute relates solely to a disagreement concerning specific terms of the contract between them. NBC and Universal Media Studios have filed this case to seek a determination from the court concerning the disputed contractual provisions.”
“NBC Universal is trying to rewrite an existing contract,” said a spokesman for Wolf.
(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)