In Depth

DirecTV Deal Keeps ‘Lights’ on at NBC

“Friday Night Lights” will play on for a third season under a partnership with DirecTV, which will offer the small-town drama first to its 16.8 million satellite subscribers exclusively starting in October.

The 13 new episodes that have been ordered will air at 9 o’clock on NBC’s Friday night lineup soon after the network’s broadcast of the Super Bowl in winter 2009.

Rumors had raised hopes in fervent fans’ hearts that the ratings-challenged “Lights” might get another shot at the success they believe it deserves. But it wasn’t until Wednesday, when NBC unveiled its 2008-09 programming plans to advertisers, that it made the hopes real.

Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, described it as “one show we all believe in.”

On a more pragmatic level, the partnership with DirecTV may enable the critically adored series to build enough of an episodic archive to facilitate a syndication deal that eventually rewards NBC for sticking by the series.

The word was not so positive on two other series that have built a following among NBC audiences.

“Scrubs” definitely will conclude its seven-year run on the network this spring. Asked whether NBC was prepared to see ABC pick up the comedy, a possibility that has been raised in speculative reports, Mr. Silverman said, “If they can go one for 21, good for them.” A spokeswoman later said the comment was a reference to the daunting odds against comedies succeeding.

Mr. Silverman said USA Network holds the fate of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” in its hands. The youngest of the franchises from Dick Wolf only came back this seventh season under a deal that made it original to the NBC Universal cable channel, with encore windows on NBC. With the second half of the current season not even scheduled to start on USA until this summer, the cable network is months away from having to make any decision.