NBC, Paramount Sign ‘Fasier’ Pact

NBC has signed a deal with Viacom Inc.’s Paramount studio
that will keep the award-winning comedy Frasier on the air for three
more years.

The move ends speculation that Paramount might take the long-standing
comedy to a rival network.

Talks between the Peacock Network, owned by General Electric Co. (GE),
and Paramount had been scheduled to end last Thursday, but the two
parties agreed to keep negotiating through Monday. In the end, NBC
agreed to pay a “less than 10% increase,” in the program’s per-episode
license fee, said Scott Sassa, NBC’s West Coast president, during a
conference call with reporters Tuesday. He cited reports that NBC had
been paying approximately $5 million per episode.

While speculation existed that Paramount could shop the popular
program elsewhere, including CBS, the broadcast network also owned by
Viacom (VIA, VIAB), “We’ll never know the truth from this day,” Mr.
Sassa said. “People will make many different claims, but we’ll never
know the truth.”

According to NBC Entertainment President Jeffrey Zucker, NBC expects
to keep the program on Tuesday nights, although “nothing is set in stone
at this time.”

Kelsey Grammer, the program’s star who was also on the call, said he
preferred that Frasier stay on Tuesday nights.

Negotiations with Paramount remained “gentlemanly,” Mr. Sassa said.
NBC executives declined to say how close the talks came to any kind of

Mr. Grammer also indicated that Frasier writers and producers
wouldn’t be able to create extra episodes in case a writers’ strike
should begin. Many networks and movie studios have been exploring the
idea of creating extra content as a backup plan should a strike
interfere with usual operations.

“We have nothing set up to do that,” Mr. Grammer said.

The show’s crew is getting ready to film the last four shows of the
current season, and “it’s pretty hard to get done with a season,” he
said, “and try to pop up a whole new arc.”

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