Dick Wolf Sets Rich Six-Show Streaming Deal at Peacock

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT - Dick Wolf inset - Publicity - Getty - H 2020
Heidi Gutman/NBC; Inset: Arnold Jerocki/WireImage

A huge centerpiece of Dick Wolf's massive library officially has a streaming home.

Peacock, the NBCUniversal-backed streaming service set to be formally unveiled to investors Thursday, has acquired streaming rights to three of Wolf's Law & Order shows and three from the Chicago franchise.

Included in the deal are what Peacock execs said were more than a thousand episodes from Wolf's library of six shows. Among them, select episodes from the 21-season and 456-episode library of flagship series Law & Order and spinoff Criminal Intent (10 seasons, 195 episodes); and the entire run of TV's longest-running primetime drama, SVU (currently in its 21st season, with more than 460 episodes and counting). Ongoing Chicago series Fire (eight seasons, 170 episodes), P.D. (seven seasons, 130-plus episodes) and Med (five seasons, 90 episodes) are also included in the deal and will have a streaming home for the first time ever.

Sources say the Peacock SVOD deal is non-exclusive and covers only domestic rights. Hulu — which quietly renewed its SVU library deal with Universal Television — and Amazon are also both said to have domestic rights to the spinoff starring Mariska Hargitay. (None of the six shows included in Peacock's announcement will be exclusive to the platform.) As for the deal's value, sources put the price tag at between $300 million and $400 million. Sources say Wolf — who has a massive ownership stake in all six shows — could stand to see that number rise should exclusivity to Peacock become an option.

"I'm extremely pleased, gratified and excited by Peacock's decision to lease my key NBC assets," Wolf said. "As we all move into the new era of television, it is reassuring to know that it will be one-stop shopping for our fans on the new platform."

While the nine-figure deal is noteworthy — it covers an eye-popping 1,580-plus episodes (and counting) — it's less than the $500 million Peacock paid for The Office after a bidding war with Netflix. That's because the deal is non-exclusive, with Hulu and Amazon sharing those same domestic rights to SVU. Seinfeld, for example, sold to Netflix for $500 million because, like Peacock and The Office, HBO Max and Friends, it's exclusive to the platform. (Seinfeld, it's worth noting, is the ultimate exclusive, with the streamer having global rights to the former NBC comedy.)

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 Thursday — 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. Wolf is also expected to renew his decades-long overall deal with NBCUniversal; negotiations have been underway for some time ahead of the June expiration of his current deal.

As Wolf and Comcast began library discussions, sources at the time noted that the sheer volume of what was all on the table — paired with the explosive market for library content — could have created a roadblock for a one-stop World of Wolf streaming hub. Sources compare a deal for both the Law & Order and Chicago libraries with a streamer's entire programming budget for the year. Wolf, as he noted Thursday, was said to be keen on having all the shows under one roof, given the interconnectivity of both SVU and the Chicago trio.

It's also worth noting that libraries for dramas — especially procedurals like the six Peacock is getting — typically aren't worth as much as comedies, which are easily repeatable. Dramas also tend to attract an older demo than comedies. Also a factor is that while SVU and the Chicago shows all have a steady and loyal viewership, they lack the heat of a library like Friends, The Office or even Seinfeld.

The news comes 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 Wolf deal announcement came as NBCU formally unveiled details about its streaming service, Peacock, on Thursday to investors in New York. The service will feature original content and library fare — including Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live — from across the company's entertainment portfolio and will launch in April. In addition to Wolf's slate, Peacock has also acquired library rights to Yellowstone (from Viacom's Paramount Network and Paramount TV Studios), Two and a Half Men and The George Lopez Show (from Warner Bros. TV). 

WME and attorney Cliff Gilbert-Lurie negotiated Wolf's streaming deal.