NEW YORK—Clear-eyed, full-hearted fans of "Friday Night Lights," Ben Silverman has heard your pleas.
The NBC co-chairman says that "every single person who sat next to me on a plane," along with a host of critics and, probably most importantly, advertisers, were demanding that he renew the critically adored but lightly watched drama for a third season. The pickup became official Wednesday, but there's a catch.
NBC has entered a partnership with DirecTV whereby the satellite-TV service will get first crack at the new season. Episodes will air on DirecTV's original programming channel, The 101, starting in October, but they won't make it to NBC until early 2009. It also won't stream on NBC.com or Hulu until then.
Season three will run for 13 episodes, meaning some unresolved threads from the show's strike-abbreviated second year could be left dangling.
Given that the show averaged only 6.2 million viewers a week this season, though, something more than a straight renewal was probably required to keep the show on the air. Bringing in DirecTV to help shoulder the cost will make iffy ratings easier to take, and will also allow NBC's sibling Universal Media Studios, which produces the show, to sell another season's worth of DVDs.
Silverman says he's not too worried about DirecTV cannibalizing the audience for "Friday Night Lights" on NBC. The satellite provider reaches only about 17 million homes -- roughly 15 percent of the 110 million-plus households that can watch NBC.
"The bottom line, and I've said this a thousand times, this is for love," Silverman says of the pickup. "We are businesspeople, and we had to come up with a business way to deliver the show back to our audience ... but no question, this one came from passion."