Negotiations for Season 8 of House are going down to the wire. At issue is the budget, specifically the license fee that Fox has to pay House's producer Universal Media Studios.
Fox would like to cut the current license fee by 20% to $5 million per episode. But Universal Media Studios says it cannot produce House in its current form for $5 million an episode, so it has been unwilling to accept a reduced license fee as it faces the possibility to have to deficit finance a show in its eighth season. The network is not budging, either, especially with ratings on the decline this season. Says a person close to the negotiations:
"Both sides have drawn hard lines and are sticking to them. Middle ground is incredibly small, it is a very tiny dot."
So what does this mean for fans? To cut costs, Universal Media Studios has been looking at cast cuts. The studio is negotiating with Robert Sean Leonard, Omar Epps, and Lisa Edelstein, whose deals are up at the end of this season. Deadline is reporting that all three, who are at about $175,000 an episode, have been asked to agree to both doing fewer episodes next season (from 24 to 18) and getting a salary reduction. The studio had been playing hardball, even threatening to drop Epps or Edelstein.
But Leonard, Epps, and Edelstein all want to return to the show for what is perceived to be its final season and a compromise is expected to be reached, possibly by the end of the week. Other stars like Hugh Laurie and Olivia Wilde already have deals in place for next season.
We'll keep you posted as we get updates on the negotiations. Fox announces its fall schedule at upfronts on May 16.