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Warren Leight is set to take the helm of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The former Lights Out showrunner will succeed Neal Baer, who is stepping down after more than a decade with the procedural. The series, one of three stateside iterations currently on the air from creator Dick Wolf, is waiting on a renewal for a 13th season, while stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, both of which reportedly earn just under $400K an episode this year, have yet to sign new deals.
This would be a homecoming for Leight, who got his start as a TV writer on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which he joined during the series’ second season. He had been elevated to showrunner before departing in 2008 to run HBO’s In Treatment. From there, he moved over to FX where he ran critical darling Light Out, which was canceled last month after one poorly-rated season.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last week, Leight spoke of the advantages of returning to the broadcast procedural genre. Unlike Lights, which demanded a lot of its viewers, SVU was the equivalent of short stories that you can sit down and read in one sitting. “You can watch SVU any time of the day or night in any country in the world and you don’t need to know what came before or what came after. From a pure business point of view, it has a much better chance,” he said.
SVU, which has been a solid performer for NBC, has been dwindling in the ratings in recent years. At the peak of its ratings performance, the hourlong averaged just under 17 million viewers in its second season from 2000-01 when it aired on Friday nights. Last season, its 11th, SVU’s average hit just below 9 million. In Season 12, the veteran procedural currently averages 8.7 million per episode.
Leight is repped by WME.
Philiana Ng contributed to this report.
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