Dick Wolf Inks Massive New Deal; 'Chicago' Franchise, 'SVU' Renewed for 3 More Seasons

Dick Wolf - Getty - H 2020
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Following lengthy renegotiations, Dick Wolf is staying put at Universal TV. 

The procedural king has signed what sources describe as a "monstrous" new five-year overall deal that will see his Wolf Entertainment continue to create and develop new projects for the NBCUniversal-owned studio. Included in the pact are three-season renewals for all of Wolf's NBC dramas: Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med and Law & Order: SVU. The new pact also includes multiple series commitments for future endeavors from Wolf and his company. Sources say the overall deal plus last month's library deal with NBCU's Peacock could have a combined value of close to $1 billion.

"We're confident in saying this is the largest deal in TV history," a source familiar with Wolf's dual deals told The Hollywood Reporter. The overall pact includes multiple series commitments on Peacock as well as three more on broadcast network NBC. Among them is last year's Law & Order: SVU spinoff, L&O: Hate Crimes, which could wind up on Peacock, as well as other offshoots from the history-making franchise. No new Chicago spinoffs are currently being planned, and an expansion of Wolf's CBS franchise, FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, would fall outside of this new pact. The additional series commitments, sources say, were the cornerstone of Wolf's new overall deal. The mega-producer is said to have not given up any of his ownership points on any of his shows while also receiving a nine-figure upfront payday that alone would dwarf most first-look pacts.

Wolf had been expected to renew his decades-long overall deal with Universal TV. The mega-producer values loyalty and consistency, with negotiations having been underway for some time ahead of the June expiration of his current agreement. In the era of nine-figure overall deals for the likes of Ryan Murphy ($300 million from Netflix) and Greg Berlanti ($400 million from Warner Bros.), Wolf's is in the high end of such pacts. Universal Television — which is part of NBCUniversal Content Studios — has been Wolf's exclusive home for the past 36 years. 

Sources say negotiations for the expansive deal began around the holidays last year and continued on with upper-level executives within the NBCU fold, including CEO Jeff Shell and Universal TV president Pearlena Igbokwe. Wolf never considered leaving the company he has called home for nearly four decades. That this new deal is for five years — rather than the previous three-year agreements — illustrates the company's commitment to keeping Wolf in the family for his entire career.

"I’m gratified and excited that Universal will remain our home for five more years,” said Wolf. “This new term deal complements our recently concluded agreement to make Peacock one of the primary destinations for both the L&O and Chicago brands, as well as our extraordinary three-year NBC broadcast pickups on all four current series. We are now supercharged to expand our business on new platforms, both domestically and internationally, while continuing to produce our current and future series for broadcasting and streaming networks."  

Wolf currently has six scripted shows on the air: NBC's Law & Order: SVU, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire and Chicago Med; and CBS' FBI and spinoff FBI: Most Wanted. SVU, it's worth noting, is currently in the midst of its record-breaking 21st season, making the Mariska Hargitay-led drama the longest-running primetime live-action show in American history. NBC last year also handed out a straight-to-series order for an SVU spinoff, L&O: Hate Crimes, though that drama remains in purgatory. Sources say NBCU's forthcoming streaming service Peacock (set to launch in April) has shown interest in Hate Crimes.

"I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Dick over the decades and it goes without saying he remains one of the most influential producers in history,” said NBCUniversal Content Studios chairman Bonnie Hammer. "He is a visionary unlike any other whose impact has changed the entire television landscape. We’re beyond thrilled to have Dick and his team remain in the NBCUniversal family for many years to come."

This is Wolf's second eye-popping deal of the year. Last month, Peacock acquired streaming rights to three of Wolf's Law & Order shows (select episodes from the flagship, Criminal Intent and all of SVU) and three from the Chicago franchise (PD, Fire and Med). More than a thousand episodes are included in the non-exclusive SVOD deal that only covers domestic rights. Sources value that deal between $300 million and $400 million.

Wolf and Peacock parent Comcast had been in talks since September for a massive licensing deal that could have included — beyond the six shows Peacock acquired — many of the other shows that comprise his unparalleled 72 seasons of television. What's more, Wolf still has multiple additional series whose streaming rights remain available, including three other Law & Order shows (Trial by Jury, L.A., True Crime), New York Undercover, both of CBS' relatively new FBI shows and unscripted fare like Cold Justice, among others. Speaking of the latter, Wolf has four unscripted series currently on the air: Fox's First Responders Live and Cold Justice, Criminal Confessions and Murder for Hire for NBCU's Oxygen. January's streaming deal arrived more than two years after rumors circulated that Wolf's library could wind up as part of a rebranding of NBCUniversal's niche cable network Oxygen. Sources say there were real conversations about rebranding Oxygen as the Wolf Net a few years ago, but ultimately Oxygen kept its name and was rebranded as a crime-focused network without the writer-producer's involvement beyond Cold Justice (and later, its spinoff).

"The significance of having Dick Wolf remain at Universal Television can’t be overstated,” said UTV president Pearlena Igbokwe. “Dick has proven himself masterful at building successful, iconic brands and telling gripping, intelligent and thought-provoking stories. It’s an honor and pleasure to be a part of the Wolf Pack for the next five years. We’re also grateful to NBC for their continued support of the Law & Order and Chicago drama series.”
For NBCU, reupping Wolf has been considered a top priority as the media titan looks to keep the lights on at broadcast network NBC and bulk up its Peacock offerings to better position the company in the streaming era amid steep competition from Netflix and other legacy brands like Disney and WarnerMedia. To that end, NBCU has been aggressively courting top producers (see its $200 million deal with Seth MacFarlane and company-wide deal with Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail) as it looks to remain competitive in the Peak TV era where proven producers are in top demand.
“Dick Wolf has proven time and time again that he makes shows audiences love,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy. “We are delighted, excited and proud that as part of this epic deal with Wolf Entertainment, NBC’s loyal audience will know that their favorite shows have a certain future for the next three years.”

The renewals cover Chicago Fire through its 11th season; Chicago Med through its eighth; and Chicago PD through its 10th. SVU, meanwhile, is now picked up through its impressive 24th cycle, four more seasons than the flagship series that launched the franchise.

WME and attorney Ziffren Brittenham's Cliff Gilbert-Lurie negotiated the deal.