01/13/2003 at 12:00 AM EST
With NBC having just agreed to a $10 million-per-episode deal to hang onto TV's No. 1 comedy, "Friends," through the 2003-04 season, now it's time to sprinkle a little green on the No. 2 sitcom, CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Under terms of a deal set to expire this May, CBS pays a licensing fee of about $5 million per episode for the show, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
"Raymond," produced by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants and HBO Independent Productions, is likely to hit $7 million per episode in the negotiations -- which are expected to get bumpy, says the trade paper.
There's also the matter of the salary for Ray Romano, 45, who on Sunday night was named favorite male TV comedy performer at the People's Choice Awards. Romano is currently taking home $800,000 an episode.
But with "Friends" stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer hauling home $1 million per episode -- each -- over at NBC, Romano also is expected to receive a raise when his contract expires, also in May.
"Raymond" creator and executive producer Phil Rosenthal declined to comment on the talks but said he looks forward to next season.