Citing sources familiar with the negotiations, the paper said the network is ready to wrap up a deal with producer John Wells and Warner Bros. TV to bring the series back for a seventh season at $3 million per episode -- with options for more seasons as well. Under terms of the most recent agreement, the network paid $6 million per episode.
According to Variety, the current deal pegs the license fee in part to ratings. If the new agreement contains similar language, the paper said, the fee for each episode could go up if the show improves its ratings performance next season.
Variety said the cost of producing "The West Wing" will probably go down if, as expected, several of the show's actors shift from regular cast members to recurring status.
Martin Sheen is expected to return to the series, but the status of Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda depends on how Wells decides to resolve the storyline in which they are campaigning for president, Variety said.