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NBC Signs Two-Year West Wing Deal

NBC Friday renewed The West Wing
for another two years (with an option for a third) at a price sources confirm is close to $7 million per episode. That's roughly five times the $1.3 million to $1.4 million NBC had been paying, well below the $3.5 million that sources say it costs Warner Bros. to produce it.

The drama has taken a double-digit hit in the key demos (mostly due to ABC's The Bachelor) but remains a top-10 show among adults 18-49, the target sales demo. NBC already pays $10 million per episode of Friends,
the most expensive show also from Warner Bros. (See earlier, related story in TV Buyer, page 50.) NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker told critics at the recent television critics tour, "West Wing
signifies exactly everything NBC stands for." Another top NBC executive said that, even at its new price, NBC can turn a profit on the show.

News Corp., Cablevision Won't Split

News Corp. opted Friday not to split from Cablevision on their regional sports partnership. Had News Corp. exercised its put on the partnership, Cablevision would have been stuck with a stiff $1 billion payment.

The deal, which includes Fox Sports Nets and other regional sports channels and MSG network, remains intact until December 2005, with Cablevision and News Corp. splitting it 60/40. News Corp. did elect a second option, reducing its 50% stake in Fox Sports Net Chicago and Fox Sports Net Bay Area to 40%. That will cost the partnership about $100 million.

FCC Sides With DBS in Florida Case

Digital-only TV stations aren't entitled to demand satellite-TV carriage, the FCC said Friday, dismissing a DBS carriage request by WHDT-DT Stuart, Fla. Satellite operators must carry all analog stations in a market or none, but the FCC said DBS digital-carriage rules are still in the works.