NBC and Warner Bros. are nearing a deal on White House drama The West
Wing that would see the show's per-episode license fee increase to $6 million to $7
million per episode, sources said.
The deal is also likely to lock the show in for three years, but it won't
necessarily lock in creator, writer and executive producer Aaron Sorkin, who would like to distance himself from the weekly grind the drama
demands, sources said.
For the first four years, NBC paid Warner Bros. between $1 million and $2 million per
episode for the drama, putting Warner Bros. in the hole on the program in the
neighborhood of $100 million.
With the new deal, Warner Bros. stands to make a profit on The West
Wing, which costs about $3.5 million per episode to make, even though ratings
have fallen off this year for the Emmy Award-winning drama.
Still, the program continues to bring in the young, affluent viewers
advertisers covet and it still ranks in the top 10 programs among adults 18
through 49, making it a valuable property on network prime time.
The licensing deal is also likely to include a clause that would ratchet up
the license fee for every ratings point the show improves in performance above a
ratings floor in the key adult 18-through-49 demographic.
For example, if the show is expected to bring in a 3.5 rating in the demo
but scores a 4.0, Warner Bros. could receive additional license fees from NBC.
Sources said that kind of clause also exists in the contract of other prime-time programs, such as ER.
While no deal for The West Wing between NBC and Warner Bros. will be
tied to any other programming deal between the network and the studio, sources
said NBC is being careful in its negotiations with Warner Bros. because NBC buys
so much product from the Burbank, Calif.-based company.
In the past two weeks, NBC has renewed Friends for another, shortened
season for $10 million per episode.
And last week, NBC's 14 owned-and-operated stations also agreed to carry
Warner Bros./Telepictures' The Ellen Degeneres Show in daytime