Maybe the makers of ''Law & Order'' should change the series' signature sound effect, that ominous ''clang-clang,'' into a cash register's ''ka-ching.'' The New York Times reports that Universal Television is trying to renegotiate its deal with NBC for all three ''L&O'' series, seeking a renewal deal for the entire franchise worth $550 million per year, or more than $1.6 billion for the new deal's three-year term.
Only ''Law & Order: Criminal Intent'' is actually up for renewal this year; the original show and ''Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' still have two years to go on their current contracts. Still, with each show winning its respective time slot, Universal has strong bargaining power. If NBC meets its price, the new deal would be the most lucrative non-sports deal in TV history. If not, ''SVU,'' followed by the other two shows could conceivably be sold to a rival network.
Universal has one more ace in the hole: it's developing a fourth ''L&O'' drama, one that would focus more on the courts than on the cops, on the drawing board for the 2004-05 season. If NBC wants development on that show to continue, some Universal execs told the Times, it'll have to settle the fates of the other three shows.