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The ''Friends'' stars contracts run out this season

Plus: Will ”Sports Night” be picked up by ABC for next season?

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Sports Night

It’s season-finale time for TV writers, which means it should also be time for all six Friends (whose $100,000-per-episode deals expire in May) to decide if they’re coming back. But with only five more episodes to shoot before wrapping in mid-April, the sextet has yet to even begin negotiations. Apparently, that’s not such a bad sign: ”There’s not a lot of anger or angst or confrontation,” says a source close to the show who’s cautiously optimistic about its return, even though cast members will likely seek north of $500,000 per episode. On the brighter side: Many key ”Friends” writers are already signed on for two more seasons. As for the finale, the source speculates that the scribes may have to write it without knowing what the future holds. Hey, you can’t go wrong marrying Ross off again.

Speaking of finales: Over at ABC, vultures seem to be circling ”Sports Night,” and rival nets may be ready to pounce. ”’Sports Night’ is a terrific show, and I’m sure other networks, including NBC, would consider [grabbing] it,” says NBC Studios president Ted Harbert. Even HBO was approached, but ”we’re not in any discussions to pick [it] up,” says a spokeswoman. Although no official decision’s been made, ”Sports Night”’s future on ABC definitely doesn’t look rosy; the net is ending the show’s season on April 4 to prevent it from doing more ratings damage (it averages a paltry 11.6 million viewers) during May sweeps. Still, ABC’s not ready to count ”Sports Night” out just yet. Says one net exec: ”It’s a devilish series. We really, really like it. It’s just a [scheduling] challenge.”