TV's biggest cash cow The Big Bang Theory secures two more seasons

A deal has been finalised which will keep television's biggest cash cow, the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, on air for at least two more seasons.

The show's 10th season kicked off last year and will conclude this coming May.

The new deal will put an 11th and 12th season into production and on television schedules in the US and around the world through to 2019.

It is unclear whether the two additional seasons would be the series' last; some US media outlets are suggesting the 12th season would be planned as the show's conclusion.

The deal was stitched up between the studio Warner Bros, which produces the series, and the US broadcaster, CBS, which airs it.

The two additional seasons are also a huge windfall for Australia's Nine Network, which owns the local rights to first-run episodes of the series.

In a re-tooled deal in 2015, Nine retained first run rights but surrendered repeat rights to the show's earlier episodes to Seven.

The series, which is a major commercial hit for CBS, is currently in the process of finalising a sequence of complex talent deals with the show's cast.

The five leads - actors Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg - all took pay cuts to around US$900,000 ($1.2 million) per episode - in order to finalise the larger suite of deals.

The pay cuts helped to underwrite pay increases for the show's other two key cast, actors Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

Bialik and Rauch joined the show in its third season but are only paid US$175,000 ($226,000) per episode; the current negotiation is expected to net them something closer to the half-million mark.

As part of the trade-off, Parsons, Galecki and Helberg also signed longer-term production deals with Warner Bros.

In real commercial terms, the space in which the fine print of the deal is being worked out is tight.

While it's absurd to suggest that a show like The Big Bang Theory is not a money-spinner, its age, and increasing costs, both eat deeply into its revenue.

Million-dollar-range salaries, such as those commanded by actors in the final seasons of shows such as Friends, effectively soak up any profit potential in first-run episodes of television shows.

For The Big Bang Theory, where the actors are also entitled to share in the show's profit, their own high salaries effectively undermine the network's ability to deliver a profit on the show.

CBS is also planning to launch a spin-off series, Young Sheldon, which will be narrated by Parsons and will explore his character's childhood, later this year.

This story TV's biggest cash cow The Big Bang Theory secures two more seasons first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.