NBC extracts longer deal for Levitan laffer

Thursday slot proves pricey

NBC is asking 20th Century Fox TV for an extended six-year license fee agreement on the new Steve Levitan comedy “Stark Raving Mad” in exchange for the plum 9:30 p.m. Thursday timeslot between “Frasier” and “ER.”

The new sitcom, from the creator of NBC’s “Just Shoot Me,” already has a 13-episode commitment from the Peacock and a guaranteed Tuesday or Thursday launch pad this fall.

But NBC believes the Thursday real estate is worth some extra concessions, and the network has been attempting all season to extract longer license-fee contracts from producers in order to prevent another costly “ER”-type renewal debacle.

The studio is negotiating NBC’s offer, and one of the points on the table is an agreement that the contract will revert to its original four-year term if the Levitan comedy is moved off Thursday night any time over the next couple of seasons.

Angered studios

NBC’s demands for perpetual license fees alienated several studios earlier this season, but networks frequently negotiate better deal terms in exchange for pickups or coveted timeslots when they set their skeds in May.

Aside from the Levitan comedy, the other lead contender for a Thursday satellite timeslot is “Jesse,” which was previously on the fence but now has a good shot at returning to 8:30 p.m. with a new executive producer. “Will & Grace” is also a Thursday possibility, although insiders say it’s more likely to be called into action on Tuesday.

“Veronica’s Closet,” which airs Thursdays, is expected to be back next season, but will likely move to another night, possibly Monday following “Suddenly Susan.”

Friday drama “Homicide” and Tuesday sitcom “NewsRadio” may not be so lucky. Both are considered serious long shots for renewal at this point.

Peacock lineup poised

NBC will formally unveil its fall lineup Monday in New York, but the Peacock is already firming up some key decisions. Things could change before the week is up, and webs often float schedule misinformation to fool competitors, but sources say NBC is leaning toward ordering just two new comedies and five new dramas for fall.

The new comedies are likely to be “Stark Raving Mad” and an untitled Mike O’Malley sitcom from NBC Studios.

The hot drama contenders are the John Wells projects “West Wing” and “Third Watch,” which are said to be under consideration for Wednesday and Sunday; “Cold Feet,” which could air Fridays as a companion to “Providence”; “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” rumored to be going to Monday or Wednesday; and “Freaks and Geeks,” which is a possible Saturday fit.

Other projects still under consideration, but more likely to go midseason, are dramas “The Others” and “Chaos Theory” and comedies “Baxter & Son” and “MYOB.”