Hoping to find an elusive hit or two to revive the beleaguered peacock network, NBC Universal said Friday that it had renewed its deal with the high-powered television production firm BermanBraun.
The three-year contract extension means that the company, launched in 2007 by former top network executives Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, will allow NBC Universal to buy any of its TV projects before the firm pitches them to a competing network.
NBC pays the firm's overhead, but the two companies declined to provide specifics about the deal.
The move comes as NBC is ratcheting up its development to plug holes in its prime-time schedule. The network has languished in fourth place for four years, and NBC's move this fall of comedian Jay Leno into prime time further depressed its ratings.
BermanBraun's contract had been set to expire next summer but NBC didn't want to lose an important program supplier at a crucial time. NBC Universal is in the process of being taken over by cable TV operator Comcast Corp., a deal that is expected to take at least a year to gain regulatory approval.
NBC executives turned to BermanBraun this year to produce its new drama about nurses, "Mercy," for the fall schedule. BermanBraun is shooting a pilot called "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer," starring David Tennant, Jeffrey Tambor and Jane Curtin, which could be ready to air this spring.
Berman previously served as president of Paramount Pictures, developing such movies as "Star Trek" and "Failure to Launch." Before that, she helped build the Fox broadcast network into a powerhouse with such hits as "American Idol," "House" and "24."
Braun, who founded the Yahoo Media Group nearly five years ago, was previously chairman of ABC Entertainment when the Walt Disney Co. network developed its hits "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."