‘Cosby’ Stayin’ Alive

After months of nail-biting negotiations, NBC announced that three keystones of its schedule will be in place for at least one more season.

The faltering Peacock network closed crucial deals with the Carsey-Werner Co. for a seventh season of its Thursday powerhouse “The Cosby Show,” and a two-year renewal of “A Different World.” Earlier in the week, it put the final touches on an agreement with Disney TV for a seventh season of “The Golden Girls.”

The “Cosby” deal reflects some of that show’s faded glory this season due, in part, to competition from Fox’ youthful hit “The Simpsons.” While Carsey-Werner got a record license fee of $2.6 million per episode to bring the Huxtables back last year (for the 1990-91 season), this season they settled for $2 million, according to industry sources. (Last year Carsey-Werner also extracted a series commitment from NBC for its flop sitcom “Grand.”)

“The Cosby Show,” however, has experienced significant slippage. While still in the top five shows, it has declined by 26% in Nielsen and by an even larger margin among younger viewers.

“The Golden Girls” deal secures NBC’s Saturday night main stay for 26 new episodes at a fee said to be approximately $1.5 million per episode. In addition, NBC gave producers Witt-Thomas-Harris a series commitment for a new Susan Harris sitcom called “Nurses,” which the network reportedly has agreed to run on Saturday nights after “Empty Nest,” another highly rated Witt-Thomas-Harris production. (“Nurses” was sold sans pilot.)

While “Golden Girls” was down 18% in Nielsen this past season, it remains the toprated show on Saturday nights.

Last March, NBC made another eye-popping license fee deal, ponying up an estimated $2.5 million for a 10th season of the still-dominant “Cheers.”

Negotiations still are underway for a renewal of Disney’s “Carol & Co.,” with the show’s star, Carol Burnett, reportedly interested in returning to an hour format in a ’90’s version of her old CBS variety show. NBC, apparently, wants to stick with the successful show’s half-hour format.

The whopping fees for old shows point up NBC’s growing vulnerability as well as its desperate need for new hits. Earlier this season, departing NBC chairman Brandon Tartikoff acknowledged this dilemma, remarking: “If you keep putting your money in aging shows that drift downward every year, eventually you lose.”

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