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Warner Bros. Trying to Resolve 'Friends' Flap

July 17, 1996|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Faced with a threatened holdout by the "Friends" cast, the show's production company broke its silence Tuesday by saying it is working to resolve the matter.

"We are reviewing the 'Friends' cast members' request to renegotiate, with the expectation it will be amicably and successfully resolved," Warner Bros. Television said in a statement.

Because NBC airs the series, and does not produce it, the actors' deals are with the studio. Still, NBC officials fielded numerous questions about "Friends" at Tuesday's sessions with TV critics in Pasadena.

"Renegotiation in sports and entertainment television is not, unfortunately, uncommon," said NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield.

The six leads are seeking $100,000 per episode, substantial raises over the estimated $40,000 they received last season and the $22,500-per-installment they garnered when the series premiered.

NBC and Warner Bros. have some time to settle the dispute, since production on the show's third season isn't scheduled to begin until Aug. 12.

Stars of successful series frequently seek sweetened deals, but such an orchestrated group action is rare. Performers sign five-year contracts when beginning a show, and the studio can prevent them from working elsewhere if they don't fulfill those agreements.

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