NBC locks up ‘SVU’ stars



NBC announced last week that it was picking up “Law & Order: SVU” for a ninth season; at the time, though, the network hadn’t secured the services of stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni for next season.

That detail has now been taken care of.

Meloni and Hargitay, who have been with the series from its beginning, have signed new deals to remain with the show for two more seasons. NBC isn’t disclosing details, but the showbiz trade papers say both will earn between $300,000 and $340,000 per episode under the new contracts. That makes them among the highest-paid actors working in television.

“Obviously, I’m thrilled that Chris and Mariska have decided to stay with a show that they’ve made an indelible stamp upon as we move into our ninth season,” “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf says in a statement.

The original “Law & Order” has been relatively impervious to cast turnover over its 17 seasons on NBC, but the “SVU” roster has been more stable. Meloni and Hargitay have been front and center for a vast majority of the show’s 170-plus episodes, and they each earned Emmy nominations last year, with Hargitay winning the award for best actress in a drama.

“SVU” is the highest-rated of the three “Law & Order” series, averaging 13.1 million viewers per week this season. It’s the No. 2 drama on NBC, behind “Heroes.”

Those numbers, along with the sizable business “SVU” does in syndication, help justify the raises for the show’s two stars. Their new contracts would take them through a 10th season of the show in 2008-09.