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Full order for ‘Studio 60’

Project has been a ratings disappointment

NBC has given Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” a full-season order, negotiating a reduction in the Warner Bros. Television-produced skein’s license fee in the process.

“Studio 60” is one of the fall’s most highly touted frosh, generating stellar reviews and a receiving a strong promo push from the Peacock. Ratings have been a disappointment, however, with the skein failing to hold onto much of its “Heroes” lead-in.

That said, NBC Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly said he remains a fan of the show, exec produced by Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme.

“It’s a bull’s-eye at the core of our brand,” he told Daily Variety. “I love the talent onscreen and off, and I want to give it the full season to work it out and fully discover its audience.”

Reilly also said there is “definite passion supporting” the skein’s ratings. “Studio 60” also overindexes among upscale auds favored by Madison Avenue.

Compared with most of this season’s other new 10 p.m. frosh dramas, “Studio 60” is actually doing OK. ABC’s “Six Degrees,” along with the now-canceled “Kidnapped” and “Smith,” have performed worse than the Sorkin skein, while none of Fox’s new dramas has popped, either.

Neither the Peacock nor producer Warner Bros. TV would comment on financials, but insiders said NBC needed the studio to cut the rich “Studio 60” pricetag in order to bring the show back. There’s been intense industry speculation that the producers cut their fees in order to make the financial equation work for all parties involved.

It’s not unusual for networks to seek breaks on license fees in exchange for bringing back struggling skeins.

“Studio 60,” however, is one of the most expensive first-year dramas in recent memory. That, plus Sorkin’s involvement and the skein’s all-star cast, has led to an almost comical amount of coverage of the show’s fate. Web sites and blogs have been filled with various pronouncements insisting “Studio 60” was dead or, in some cases, certain to return.

“I appreciated everyone’s interest going in. It ended up being an inordinate amount of scrutiny — well beyond what I think the public’s level of interest (is in the show),” Reilly said. “I think it got more analysis than the elections.”

With “Studio 60” picked up, Reilly now must decide whether to continue production on two other frosh: “Friday Night Lights” and “30 Rock.” He said he expects to make an announcement by next week.

“They’re shows I’m trying to figure out how to support and give a real chance at growing,” Reilly said. “We’re trying to put together a sensible (January) schedule that can hold together in the middle of ‘Idol’ season.”

WBTV has had a good week, with “Men in Trees” snagging a full-season order Wednesday. CBS is expected to make a call on the studio’s Monday laffer “The Class” by next week.

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