After much, much, much speculation, NBC Universal today announced today that all three Law & Order branded series will continue on its networks next season. But that doesn’t necessarily mean NBC primetime. Because Criminal Intent is moving to USA Networks for first-run this fall, with a replay on NBC. The flagship Law & Order laworder.jpgwill return for an 18th season on NBC, making it the longest running crime drama in TV history and in position to challenge the longest running drama series ever, Gunsmoke. The order for both CI and L&O is 22 episodes each. And, as previously announced, SVU returns to NBC primetime next fall. I can’t believe Jeff Zucker’s hyperbole: “With this innovative programming move, we have significantly strengthened the already powerful USA network, given NBC maximum flexibility, and in the process have changed the paradigm of prime time television.” Yeah, and cured cancer besides. So creator / exec prod Dick Wolf gets richer. All three Law & Order programs are produced by Wolf Films and NBC Universal Television Studios. So much for the buzz that Wolf and TNT looked “certain” to make a Law & Order deal. They were talking about 13 more original episodes each annum because Wolf wanted to ensure his flagship stays on the air for at least 2 and if possible 3 more years. “Dick would love to surpass Gunsmoke which was on the air for 19 years. So if he gets two more seasons he’s tied. If three years, he beats it,” an insider told me last week. It’s always fascinating when Hollywood types think about their legacies like this.