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CBS confident it will have more ‘Big Bang Theory’ beyond the 10th season

Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco are committed to the CBS hit "The Big Bang Theory" through the 2016-17 season.
(CBS)

Is there one more big deal left for the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”?

CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller thinks so. He told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn. media tour in Beverly Hills that the network would welcome more seasons of TV’s highest-rated scripted series.

CBS is committed to carrying the sitcom, produced by Warner Bros. Television, through the upcoming 2016-17 TV season. The studio’s current deals with the cast also ends with that season, which will be its 10th.

“We are very confident that everyone involved wants more ‘Big Bang’ after Season 10,” Geller said. “I know Warner Bros. will make those deals.”

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Geller offered no timetable as to when the studio will have commitments with the cast to keep the show going.

CBS licenses first-run episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” from Warner Bros., which owns the series and reaps millions of dollars in annual revenue from syndication after they appear on the broadcast network.

But a renewal will have a hefty price tag.

“The Big Bang Theory” is the last of the broadcast network sitcoms that still generate ratings reminiscent of the TV era before audiences were sliced and diced into smaller segments due to DVR viewing and the growth of online video options. In the 2015-16 season, “The Big Bang Theory” averaged 20.3 million viewers and a 5.8 rating among the 18-to-49 age group most sought by advertisers.

Previous contract renewals have driven up the cost of the show. The three leads, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, have salaries that top $1 million an episode. The other regulars also earn salaries well into six-figure territory per half-hour.

The license fee for CBS to air the program is just under $7 million per half-hour, more than three times what the network would pay for a first-season sitcom. But the program continues to be modestly profitable for CBS as it gets three runs of each episode. “The Big Bang Theory” is one of the few shows left on broadcast network television that delivers solid ratings when it repeats.

The comedy would still have value for CBS if it was a break-even proposition or even a loss leader. The program delivers a strong audience lead-in to whatever series airs after it. That can help CBS generate new hits for the future.

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This fall, CBS will air its new comedy “Kevin Can Wait,” starring Kevin James, in the post-“Big Bang Theory” time slot at 8:30 on Monday. When “Big Bang Theory” moves to Thursday at 8 p.m. after “Thursday Night Football” ends, the new Matt LeBlanc comedy “Man With A Plan” will be the beneficiary.

Geller spent much of the rest of his media-tour session telling reporters that the network hopes to improve its record on diversity in the casting of lead characters on its series. All six of the network’s new programs have white men as their leads.

“We’re very mindful at CBS about the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Geller said. “We need to do better and we know it.”

Geller noted that although “we are less diverse than last year” when it comes to show leads, diverse casting has increased in its ensemble casts. Eleven out of 16 regulars cast in its shows since May have been filled by non-white actors, he noted.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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