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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 09:37 GMT
Friends reunite for final series
Friends: America's favourite sitcom is coming back
Hit US comedy Friends is to return for a ninth and final season, the programme's makers have announced.

The show's six stars are each to be paid a reported $1m (700,000) for each of the 24 episodes, which begin filming in the autumn.

The deal ends months of speculation over the fate of the show, which has regained popularity since the 11 September US attacks, to become America's most popular programme.

The deal, with Warner Bros and broadcaster NBC, puts Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer among Hollywood's best-paid stars.

Actresses Courtney Cox Arquette, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow
Friends' female stars are famed worldwide
NBC president Jeff Zucker said: "This was the easiest deal we have ever made.

"Everyone wanted it to work out, because everyone wanted to be able to send the series out appropriately, and in style."

Contract talks could have lasted until May, when the current deals, thought to be worth $750,000 (527,000) per episode, expire.

The cast reportedly turned down a previous pay increase offer of $799,000 (564,000) per show.

LeBlanc said last month that he "honestly didn't know" if there would be another series.

Everyone wanted to be able to send the series out appropriately, and in style

NBC head Jeff Zucker

Aniston was said to be in favour of ending the show, while Schwimmer had spoken of his desire to give up acting and become a teacher.

Friends draws an average of 24.5 million viewers each week.

In advertising terms, it is second only to the hospital drama ER.

NBC is thought to charge advertisers $360,000 (253,000) for a 30-second commercial during the show.

Advertising space on ER costs a reported $410,000 (288,000) for 30 seconds.

Reports suggest NBC is to pay Warner Brothers $6m (4.2m) to air each show.

That sum will cover only the salaries of the stars .

The production company will have to make its profits from sales of Friends outside the US, to cable television companies and on video.

The Friends actors are not the US's most highly paid sitcom stars.

Kelsey Grammer, the star of Frasier, earns a reported $1.7m (1.17m) for each half-hour episode.

See also:

04 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Friends bid for '$1m' episodes
16 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Channel 4's 100m Friends deal
20 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Friends stay together - Schwimmer
21 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Friends in the money
11 Nov 98 | Entertainment
$1m Christmas bonus for Friends
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Pitt and Roberts oust Hannibal
09 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Aniston sues over topless photos
30 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Brad and Jennifer tie the knot
30 Jul 00 | Entertainment
In pictures: Jennifer and Brad's wedding
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