'SVU' pair back, for more

Hargitay, Meloni enter TV's top tier

After lengthy negotiations, "Law & Order: SVU" stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni have inked rich new deals to continue on NBC's hit crime drama for two more seasons.

The pact, valued by sources at more than $330,000 per episode for both Hargitay and Meloni, would make Hargitay the highest-paid actress on television, surpassing "The Closer" star Kyra Sedgwick.

Meloni would join the top tier of TV actors, closing in on the highest-paid actor on broadcast TV, Charlie Sheen of CBS' "Two and a Half Men."

The new deals take Hargitay and Meloni beyond the current deal for "SVU," which recently was picked up for next season, its ninth.

Through a representative, "Law & Order" chief Dick Wolf declined comment on any specifics of Hargitay and Meloni's deals.

"Obviously, I'm thrilled that Chris and Mariska have decided to stay with a show that they've made an indelible stamp upon as we move into our ninth season," Wolf said.

At the announcement of the early pickup last week, NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly was asked whether "SVU" could continue without its two stars.

"The 'Law & Order' brand has proven before that it can be stronger than any one performer if it were to ever come to that," he said. "But they are stars, and I certainly hope they're going to be our stars for the run of the show."

Sources said NBC and producers Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studios briefly considered replacement scenarios, sending out feelers to several male actors, but they ultimately opted to stick with the show's original leads.

"SVU," the first spinoff of the long-running "Law & Order," is the strongest of the three "L&O" series ratingswise and the only one already picked up for next season.

Last year, Hargitay and Meloni were nominated for an Emmy for their work on the show, and Hargitay won for best actress in the drama series.

Hargitay is repped by WMA. Meloni is repped by the Gersh Agency.