NBC is reportedly close to a deal that would pay Warner Bros. Television about $5 million for each episode of Friends through the 2002 season.
The deal, according to Daily Variety, would net Warners $220 million while ensuring the Peacock the continued presence of TV's top-rated comedy and an anchor to its dominant Thursday night schedule.
In the annals of big-bucks television deals, it would definitely rank up there. NBC has only shelled out this kind of cash on rare occasions, paying Castle Rock a reputed $5.5 million per show for the culture-morphing final season of Seinfeld, and forking over $13 million to Warners for each one-hour episode of ER, the top-rated show on TV.
Given the performance of Friends this past season, it's not surprising the network would pay the producer top dollar. Television's second highest rated show this year--and its top comedy--the program lost only 1 percent of that all-important 18-49-year-old audience from the 1997-98 season.
That's pretty solid when you consider the rest of the Peacock's Thursday night lineup experienced double-digit percentage ratings losses in this first post-Seinfeld season.
According to the today's report, Friends stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer will share the wealth.
All currently make $100,000 per episode, and none is signed beyond next season, the show's sixth. (The actors also received a nice $200,000 Christmas bonus from Warners last December.)
By most estimates, the stars could command as much as $250,000 an episode if they agree to hang around through 2002.
So no more whining that, "you're job's a joke, and you're broke."