May 9, 2007
New ‘Law & Order’ Episodes May Move to TNT From NBC
By BILL CARTER
The future of the long-running drama “Law & Order” may not be on NBC.
Executives involved in the negotiations to extend the series beyond its current season, its 17th, said yesterday that the cable channel TNT was a serious contender to acquire new episodes of “Law & Order” if NBC decides not to renew the series.
According to executives on both sides — all of whom asked not to be identified because the talks were in a delicate stage — a decision could come in the next couple of days. NBC is in the middle of deciding which shows will be in its fall prime-time schedule. That announcement will be made Monday, but the schedule is likely to be completed earlier.
An announcement about whether “Law & Order” will shift to TNT is expected in the next day or two, an executive involved in the talks said. News of the negotiations first appeared on the Web site for the television trade publication Broadcasting & Cable.
No show with the record of success of “Law & Order” has ever moved to a cable channel to continue its run with new episodes. Dick Wolf, the creator of “Law & Order” and the driving creative force behind that show and its spinoffs, “Special Victims Unit” and “Criminal Intent,” had no comment about the negotiations. While “Special Victims Unit” has already been renewed for another season, Mr. Wolf has been pressing NBC to pick up the other two.
Karen Cassel, the spokeswoman for TNT, said, “It’s still speculative and we have no comment.”
The deal, if it happens, would probably be for a full season of 22 episodes, one executive involved in the negotiations said. Such an order would represent a change for cable networks, which for the most part order fewer episodes — often 13 — of series they commission.
For that reason, the deal, if concluded, is expected to be expensive. NBC has been paying about $4 million an episode for “Law & Order.” Mr. Wolf said in a previous interview that he was considering ways to reduce the costs of “Law & Order,” perhaps by changing some cast members.
Presumably, TNT would pay a fee negotiated down from what NBC is paying. But TNT has special interest in “Law & Order.” It already owns the repeats of the series, which form the backbone of the network’s schedule. “Law & Order” runs three to four hours a day on TNT.
New episodes of the series would also become the property of TNT because the channel has a deal in place to buy repeats of any new episodes for $1 million each.
Mr. Wolf would clearly welcome a deal that would keep the series going through a 21st season, which would break the TV record held by an old CBS
NBC’s television studio, NBC Universal Television, would continue to produce the show, even it if moves to TNT.