Producer Dick Wolf Signs New Nine-Figure Deal With Universal
(Bloomberg) -- Veteran producer Dick Wolf signed a new five-year agreement to keep making TV shows for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Television, extending a string of deals that total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
As part of the pact, Comcast’s NBC will continue airing Wolf Entertainment’s “Chicago” shows -- “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” -- for at least three more seasons. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” already in its record-breaking 21st season, also will be picked up for three more years.
Wolf, 73, will get at least $150 million upfront in the deal, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the terms weren’t released publicly. He stands to make more from his share of his shows’ potential profits when Universal licenses them to streaming services and other TV networks.
“The significance of having Dick Wolf remain at Universal Television can’t be overstated,” Pearlena Igbokwe, the division’s president, said in a statement. “Dick has proven himself masterful at building successful, iconic brands and telling gripping, intelligent and thought-provoking stories.”
Comcast already agreed to pay Wolf between $300 million and $400 million for the rights to offer his past shows, including the original “Law & Order,” on its streaming service Peacock.
Competition between new streaming services has set off a bidding war for TV’s top writers and producers. Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes signed deals with Netflix worth hundreds of millions of dollars to produce multiple shows at the same time, while Warner Bros. kept Greg Berlanti at that studio with a deal worth more than $400 million.
The creator of more than six versions of “Law & Order” shows, as well as the “Chicago” franchise and other programs, Wolf is one of the most prolific producers in TV. He produces 11 shows currently on the air across CBS, NBC, Fox and Oxygen. Unlike many of his peers, Wolf has opted not to cash in by selling the right to future earnings from his work -- what’s known as the back end.
Wolf, who grew up in New York, moved to Los Angeles to work as a screenwriter in the 1980s and got his start as a staff writer on “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice.” He then created “Law & Order,” which debuted in 1990s and went on to be one of the longest-running dramas in TV history.
Wolf has watched as broadcast TV surrendered its place as the home for the best TV to premium cable and then streaming. Yet he has continued to churn out programs for broadcast networks, where the ultimate economics are still favorable for producers. Wolf gets paid to produce the show, and then again every time its rights are sold to cable or streaming companies.
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