The Wall Street Journal reports that Dick Wolf, creator of the Law & Order mega-franchise, and NBC, a television network that at one time produced shows that people actually watched, are engaged in a protracted legal battle over the series’ “revenue, prestige, and legacy.” Wolf believes he’s been cheated on his fees and on bigger-picture issues like the number of seconds that NBC promotes Law & Order over CSI (his findings show that in a typical week, CSI gets about 200 seconds worth of promos; his show only gets half that). NBC counters that Wolf, who stands to pull in about $750 mil from the show in the next few years, including $18 mil per year in producer’s fees, is just “being greedy.”
Financial quibbles aside, the deeper source of Wolf’s apparent gripe with the network is the litany of slights that he and his staff believe have been thrown their way in recent months. Topping the list is the fact that, “Among other restrictions, Starbucks coffee is no longer offered free, according to some of the show’s writers.” It is unclear to what extent Wolf’s access to GE’s fleet of private jets has been curtailed.
Tensions escalated further when Ben Silverman, the new co-chairman of NBC entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, recently backed out of a scheduled meeting with Wolf, sending his deputy instead. NBC commented that “Mr. Silverman doesn’t always go to such meetings.” Makes sense. Why would the president of the last-place network want to meet with the most successful producer in the history of television?
In response to Wolf’s clear displeasure at the slight, NBC stated that it prefers to exploit Mr. Silverman’s obvious genius in more out-of-the box arenas, such as the network’s new initiative calling for the return of every show aired between 1981 and 1988. Attempts to reach Mr. Silverman for comment on the set of Knight Rider were unsuccessful. [Wall Street Journal]