More field time for 'Lights'

NBC-DirecTV's two-way player in starting lineup for Seasons 4 and 5

"Friday Night Lights" fans can rejoice: NBC has ordered two more seasons of the critically lauded but ratings-challenged series.

The network and DirecTV have finalized a deal for a 26-episode order — two seasons of 13 episodes each — of the UMS/Imagine TV-produced drama about a Texas high school football team.

Under the pact, "FNL" will continue to premiere on DirecTV, with a second window on NBC.

Faced with the prospect of canceling the series because of low ratings, NBC struck a pact with DirecTV last year to share the cost of "FNL's" current third season.

Helping to make the pickup economically feasible is the fact "FNL" is produced efficiently in Austin, where it enjoys tax incentives. To keep costs even lower, the upcoming seasons might be filmed back-to-back. Season 4 will air next season, and Season 5 runs the following season.

Additionally, the two-season pickup for "FNL" makes the show syndicatable because it brings the episode count to 76.

Angela Bromstad, president of scripted programming at NBC and UMS, admitted that "FNL" would have been canceled without the DirectTV deal, brokered by NBC co-chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff. She added, though, that "it was important to keep this beloved, quality show alive because, while we need a bigger and broader audience, it's hopefully an indication of the type of shows we want to do at NBC."

"FNL" exec producer/showrunner Jason Katims has the hot pilot "Parenthood" in contention at NBC. If it gets picked up to series, he will oversee both.

"It will be a challenge, but I love 'Friday Night Lights' so much, I would never walk away from it," Katims said.

Making things easier is that "Parenthood" and "FNL" are produced by the same companies, UMS and Imagine.

Katims hopes to bring all of "FNL's" writers back. Stars Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton also are set to return.

Following the model "FNL" introduced this season, four actors whose characters are graduating — Minka Kelly, Zach Gilford, Taylor Kitsch and Adrianne Palicki — are not expected to continue as regulars but will return for arcs.

"FNL" is exec produced by Peter Berg, Katims, Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Sarah Aubrey and Jeffrey Reiner. (partialdiff)