Fox's deal with Universal Media Studios, which produces the Hugh Laurie drama, is expiring, and as Variety reported Friday, there's no resolution in sight. That's led some to wonder whether Universal might ultimately move the show, entering its eighth season this fall, to sister network NBC.
Even though new NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt is high on his new development, the network could use an established hit (even in its ratings-eroded state) like House. But insiders tell TV Guide Magazine that under the current deal between Fox and Universal, that's not an immediate possibility.
According to those sources, a clause in the current House pact prevents Universal from shopping the show to NBC or any NBCUniversal network (such as USA). If talks fall apart and a window opens for Universal to shop the show elsewhere, it would have to be at a non-NBCUniversal affiliated network like ABC, CBS or TNT. (For now, Fox and Universal's exclusive negotiating window has been extended through at least April 15.)
Both Fox and Universal remain far apart on how much the network will pay in license fees. Variety notes that Universal is looking to maintain their current deal, in which Fox pays for the cost of production on House plus a premium. It's believed that Universal is also looking for a two-year deal, while Fox is looking to bring down its fees (given House's lower ratings this season) and strike just a one-year deal.
Further complicating matters: Deals for showrunner David Shore and several castmembers must be renegotiated (although Laurie and Olivia Wilde's options will be exercised). Cast member Robert Sean Leonard, in particular, is hinting that he's not sure whether he'll return.
The network and studio declined comment. But insiders close to the talks warn not to read too much into the clause that would prevent a move to NBC, saying it could be open to interpretation. They also remain confident that deals will be done for House in the coming weeks — although the House pact could indeed come down to the wire, perhaps just days before Fox announces its fall schedule in May.
"We'll get this thing done," says one source close to the negotiation. "This isn't the NFL. I'm not panicked at all."
Anything's possible — many series have jumped networks over the years, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer's infamous switch from The WB to UPN. But when asked on a conference call Friday whether he was concerned that a deal wouldn't be struck, Shore told reporters that he "would be absolutely astounded if there wasn't, we are working on the assumption that there will be. As you all know, there is no deal in place, but negotiations are ongoing and Fox wants to have a season eight, and NBCUniversal wants them to have a season eight," Shore added. "I fully expect there to be a season eight and we are proceeding on that basis."