Bazinga! CBS and Warner Bros. Television have reached a deal for a three-year renewal of broadcast TV’s top entertainment series, The Big Bang Theory, that would keep the hit comedy on the air through the 2016-2017 season, the series’ 10th. No one is commenting, but I hear the license fee is in the $4 million-$5 million range per episode (closer to $4 million), a high number for a comedy series. This marks Big Bang‘s second consecutive three-season pickup, a commitment reserved only for the biggest shows on television. While it is the biggest deal by far, Big Bang is not the only WBTV comedy in renewal talks with CBS. I hear the network and the studio also are in discussions on the other three Chuck Lorre series, with a 13-episode final season of Two And A Half Men eyed along with renewals for next season of Mike & Molly and freshman Mom.
With the Big Bang license deal secured, WBTV and CBS will turn their attention to the cast. There had been some overtures but no real negotiations so far with original cast members Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, whose contracts are up at the end of this season. (Big Bang’s other regulars, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, closed new deals last fall.) Put on hold while license fee negotiations were going on, talks with Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco are expected to kick into gear soon. Currently at about $350,000 per episode, the three leads are projected to get to the Friends cast mark of $1 million an episode.
The Big Bang Theory is head and shoulders above any non-sports series on broadcast TV and still posts year-to-year gains seven seasons into its run. Season to date, the comedy is averaging 19.79 million viewers in most current ratings ( up 4% from last season), and 6.1/19 in adults 18-49. The relatively quick and painless renewal after a couple of months of talks extends CBS and WBTV’s good track record of largely smooth negotiations on high-profile, complex renewals like previous Two And A Half Men and Big Bang deals. “Comedy is a big part of our schedule, and The Big Bang Theory is the biggest comedy force on television,” said CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler. “This multi-year deal further strengthens our network’s position for future seasons and marks another chapter in the great partnership CBS enjoys with Warner Bros Television for delivering audiences the best in comedy. We’re proud to work with and showcase the incredible talents of Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro and this amazing cast every week.” Lorre and Bill Prady created the series, which they executive produce with showrunner Molaro. Big Bang, which also is the highest-rated series in syndication, propelling TBS to No. 1 in adults 18-49, has garnered three Emmy Award nominations for best series and has won three Emmys for star Parsons.
Given Two And A Half Men‘s longevity and its importance, a final-season order reflects the desire by both sides to give the comedy a proper send-off. The series, now in in its 11th season, still delivers healthy ratings and has perked up in its new Thursday 9 PM slot. Last week, it drew a 2.5 in 18-49 and 10 million viewers, the show’s largest audience and highest 18-49 rating since the season premiere. Mike & Molly and Mom are part of CBS’ Monday lineup, which has been on the soft side this year. Still, they have stayed mostly at and above a 2 demo rating in Live+Same Day, most recently logging a 2.2 (Mike & Molly) and 2.0 (Mom). Plus, both have a bona fide star as a lead, Melissa McCarthy and Anna Faris, respectively.
The blockbuster status of Big Bang is expected to have a halo effect on the other Lorre series’ renewals between CBS and WBTV, where the prolific writer-producer is based. It does make sense for a studio to leverage a hot property in negotiations with a network. Last May, Sony TV was able to secure a four-series pickup deal with NBC on the strength of new drama The Blacklist, which helped get series orders for two other Sony pilots, Welcome To The Family and Night Shift, as well as a renewal for Community.