Is Dick Wolf Next? NBCUniversal Shopping Massive TV Library (Exclusive)

An incredible 72 seasons of the veteran producer's key franchises like 'Law & Order' and the 'Chicago' shows are up for grabs — for a hefty price.
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic
Dick Wolf

Dick Wolf may be the only producer on the planet who can top The Big Bang Theory's eye-popping five-year, multibillion-dollar streaming and syndication deal with WarnerMedia, which was announced Tuesday. 

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the prolific producer and executives at Comcast, his home of nearly three decades, are in early discussions for a mass licensing deal that, if Wolf has his way, could include the complete catalog of Law & Order and spinoffs SVU and Criminal Intent; his three Chicago shows; potentially CBS' FBI as well as New York Undercover; and unscripted shows like Cold Justice. That's 72 seasons and 1,568 total hours of content — plus a possible green light for the updated New York Undercover, which is drawing interest after ABC's pass in May. Factor in unscripted and those rare one-and-done Law & Order spinoffs and there's another 150 episodes of crime-focused programming ready to be streamed.

Sources say NBCUniversal's newly named Peacock is among the outlets eyeing what is sure to be one of the most complex and richest library deals ever, as other potential bidders have begun to surface. Those include WarnerMedia-backed HBO Max, the new streaming home of the said billion-dollar-plus Big Bang library, with others likely to emerge as the shopping process continues.

Multiple sources note that the sheer volume of two of TV's biggest franchises, paired with the explosive market for library content, may create potential roadblocks 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, sources say, is keen on having everything under one roof, given the interconnectivity of both franchises. Still, Comcast and Wolf could make even more should Law & Order, Chicago and New York Undercover go to three different outlets.

It's also worth noting that libraries for dramas — especially procedurals — 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 and even Seinfeld.

Yet another factor that will come into play as Comcast continues to survey the marketplace for library titles is the level of exclusivity and domestic vs. foreign rights. Seinfeld sold to Netflix for $500 million-plus — topping The Office's and Friends' new library deals — because it was not only exclusive but covered global streaming rights. Any such deal for Wolf's fare could be elevated depending on both the levels of exclusivity (if two rival streamers want to share the same library, for example) and if the rights cover international and not just domestic. No matter how things shake out, Wolf will have final approval on any streaming deal(s).

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).

Representatives for Wolf Entertainment and HBO Max declined to comment. Said NBCUniversal direct-to-consumer chairman Bonnie Hammer: "We love Dick. Our company has had a great partnership with him for many years. He is definitely tied to the legacy of NBCU, and we'd love for him to be part of Peacock."

As for what's next for Wolf, the procedural king's Universal TV overall deal expires in June 2020, so expect yet another monster pact with a lot of zeroes in his future as Comcast is eager to keep him in the fold.

A version of this story first appears in the Sept. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.