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NBC gets lathered up for Sony sudser

Scribe Reilly to o'see 2 shows

NBC and Sony Pictures Television have inked a five-year deal worth nearly $500 million to keep hit sudser “Days of Our Lives” on the Peacock through May 2009.

In addition, former “Days” head scribe Jim Reilly — who left to create NBC sudser “Passions” — has signed on to oversee writing on both skeins. Ken Corday will continue to exec produce “Days,” the saga of the Horton and Brady families created by his parents nearly 40 years ago.

Both pacts were engineered on the Peacock side by NBC senior VP of daytime Sheraton Kalouria, who’s also been doing some dealmaking on his own behalf: Exec has just reupped for another three years as head of the daytime unit.

Deal for “Days” was negotiated quietly over the past few months — a dramatic departure from five years ago, when NBC and Sony engaged in a prolonged license fee battle that had Sony and Corday Prods. seriously considering moving the skein to another network. The two sides ultimately inked a deal that hiked the show’s license fee nearly 50%.

This time around, the changing economics of daytime TV — specifically, declining Nielsen numbers for almost all sudsers — resulted in a less contentious dealmaking process. Indeed, NBC’s business affairs team, led by topper Marc Graboff, managed to strike a deal with Sony calling for a reduced license fee.

Peacock now will shell out roughly $1.7 million-$1.8 million per week for “Days,” down from the nearly $1.9 million the net had been paying. That figure still makes “Days” the most expensive sudser in daytime and is well above the $1.2 million NBC paid for “Days” five years ago.

Net also agreed to another five-year deal — a big guarantee of security for Sony and Corday Prods. in a universe of shrinking sudser auds.

‘Core asset’

Sony Pictures TV topper Steve Mosko said that, with his studio’s recent restructuring of its small-screen operations, “Taking care of our core assets was key, and ‘Days’ is one of our core assets.

“It was important for us to renew the show for a long time,” he added. “People talk about hits in terms of months and years, but with ‘Days,’ we’re talking decades. It’s an important show for us, for NBC and the viewers.”

“Days” remains a solid daytime performer, ranking first among women 18-34. Its numbers have slipped during the past 18 months, however, and the skein has surrendered its former hold on first place with women 18-49.

Key to the “Days” deal was convincing Reilly to oversee both shows. Scribe helped the sudser soar to the top spot among women 18-49 during his first go-round as head writer from 1992-97, and with “Passions,” he created what appears to be a long-term franchise for NBC.

Corday had some initial concerns about Reilly splitting his time, but Kalouria said all parties ultimately realized it made sense to bring back Reilly.

“What Ken and I both agree on is that Jim is the right guy to be the creative leader overseeing the next wave of stories for ‘Days,’ ” Kalouria said. “We saw in Jim someone who had a proven track record, and we wanted to bring him back.”

Big pickup

Corday said he was “thrilled” about the long-term deal, noting the Peacock’s commitment to the show in an era when nets are more reluctant than ever to sign multiyear deals.

“I was riding in an elevator with some producers who were talking about (their show getting picked up for 10 episodes). I was able to say, ‘I just got picked up for 1,300,” Corday quipped. “NBC has stood by us for a long time, and we’re glad they’re willing to give us five more years even though the market is tougher than it’s ever been.”

Corday also said he welcomed Reilly’s return.

“I had qualms about it at first only because it’s a huge task to write five shows a week, and now you’re asking him to write 10 shows,” he said. “But Jim has the appetite and the skills, so away we go.”

New deal also gives Sony expanded repurposing rights for “Days.”

Studio already had the right to air same-day episodes of the sudser on cable, and that remains a possibility in the coming year. Now, however, studio also will be able to offer “Days” segs over the Internet, with viewers able to download episodes the same afternoon they air on NBC.

“We will be looking at the potential of doing that,” Mosko said, noting the studio already offers a Net version of its CBS sudser “The Young & the Restless.”

Key signing

As for Kalouria’s new deal, NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker called his daytime chief “one of the best and brightest execs in TV today.”

“His story sense, his marketing skills all transcend daytime,” Zucker said. “He’s also been integrally involved in (the net’s acquisition of Spanish-lingo net) Telemundo, and there’s nothing but a bright future for Sheraton here.”

Kalouria said working at NBC has “been all about opportunities.”

“When I came here we were in third place, and two seasons ago we had the opportunity to get to first place, and we’ve stayed there,” he said. Working in an informal role at Telemundo also has allowed the exec to “flex some creative muscles.”

Kalouria joined NBC in 2000 from ABC Daytime, where he had been VP of marketing and promotion. He previously was director of marketing for the net’s “Wonderful World of Disney” and “One Saturday Morning” franchises.

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