‘FBI’ & ‘FBI: Most Wanted’ Actors To Do Fewer Episodes Next Season In Cost-Cutting Move

EXCLUSIVE: More ensemble drama series are reducing the number of episodes cast members are in as a way to save money. The series regulars on CBS’ FBI and FBI: Most Wanted will have their minimum guarantees trimmed by 2 episodes next season, Deadline has learned. The third FBI series, FBI: International, is not impacted, I hear. Reps for FBI producers Wolf Entertainment and Universal Television declined comment.

As Deadline reported exclusively this week, veteran cast members on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy also are getting their episodes cut next season by 3-4 in a cost-saving measure.

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The move for the two FBI series mirrors the episodic guarantees reductions applied to Wolf/Uni TV’s Chicago and Law & Order dramas a year ago. The timing makes sense as such talent cost-cutting usually follows a renewal that nowadays comes with a flat or reduced license fee.

The six NBC dramas were up for renewal last year, with the episode trim coming shortly after the pickup. Meanwhile, the FBI series had been locked into two-year renewals that didn’t come up until this spring. All three were picked up by CBS for next season, with the mothership scoring a three-year pickup. (There are no further episode reductions on Wolf’s NBC series this year, sources said.)

An episodic guarantee represents the number of episodic fees each series regular is entitled to per their contract each season regardless of how much they appear on-screen every week. Usually that corresponds to “all episodes produced,” or a full season, which is typically 22 episodes for most Wolf Entertainment procedurals.

For the upcoming 22-episode seasons of FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, series regulars will be “guaranteed” payment for 20 episodes, which means that the producers likely will use them in that many in order to utilize the savings because actors will have to be paid extra for additional installments.

As to why the reduction only applies to FBI and FBI: Most Wanted, they are more expensive because they film in the US and have larger regular casts (5-6 members) with big names, including Missy Peregrym, Jeremy Sisto and Alana De La Garza (FBI) and Dylan McDermott, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Edwin Hodge (FBI: Most Wanted).

Meanwhile, with Luke Kleintank departing, FBI: International has four remaining series regulars who are not as established and half of them are international actors. Additionally, the series has lower production costs by filming in Hungary.

Reducing series regulars’ episodes has become a common cost-saving practice. It does not impact actors’ per-episode fee though their overall compensation goes down as they appear in fewer episodes, something the writers have to be mindful of as they craft storylines.

A budget-reduction alternative is cutting cast’s salaries, which happened on Blue Bloods last year, or making some of the series regulars recurring, which we saw on shows like Bob Hearts Abishola and Superman & Lois.

Such cuts have become inevitable in the current challenging economic environment as TV production is getting more expensive and media congloms are putting a stronger emphasis on their balance sheets, with linear series most vulnerable amid declining live ratings.

The goal “is basically to reduce pretty dramatically our investment in content, specifically aimed at those traditional networks,” Bob Iger, CEO of ABC parent Disney, said this week about cutting spending on programming for the company’s linear networks.

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