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Desperate for hits, NBC Universal renews deal with production firm BermanBraun

December 11, 2009 |  3:28 pm

Hoping to find an elusive hit or two (or three) to revive the beleaguered peacock network, NBC Universal this afternoon said it has renewed its production deal with the high-powered production firm BermanBraun.

The three-year contract extension means that the company, launched nearly three years ago by former top network executives Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, will provide its shows to NBC Universal on a first-look basis. The production firm will continue to operate as a separate label within NBC Universal, developing scripted and unscripted projects for all of NBC Universal's TV divisions. NBC pays the firm's overhead, but the companies declined to provide specifics. 

The move comes as NBC is increasing its emphasis on development to plug holes in its prime-time schedule. The company's contract had been set to expire next summer.

But NBC has been in a programming pickle and didn't want to lose an important supplier.

Earlier this year, NBC executives turned to BermanBraun to produce the nurses drama "Mercy" in time for the fall season. BermanBraun is shooting the NBC drama pilot “Rex Is Not Your Lawyer,” starring David Tennant, Jeffrey Tambor and Jane Curtin, which could be ready to air as early as spring. NBC Universal's Syfy cable channel also has greenlighted another of the company's projects, “Alphas,” written by Zak Penn. That pilot will start shooting in January.

Berman previously served as president of Paramount Pictures, developing such movies as "Star Trek," “Failure to Launch” and “Nacho Libre.” Before her stint in the feature-film world, Berman helped build the Fox broadcast network into a programming powerhouse with the launch of such hits as "American Idol," "House," "24" and "The O.C."  Braun was chairman of ABC Entertainment when the network developed its biggest shows, including "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," Grey's Anatomy" and "Extreme Makeover Home Edition." Braun came up with the initial concept for "Lost" and was instrumental in the creation of "The Sopranos" when he was president of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment.

"It's been a great partnership with Gail and Lloyd," Angela Bromstad, NBC president of prime-time entertainment, said in a statement. "They are a rare team of true producers and executives who understand what it takes to make great programming."
-- Meg James