King World sells ‘Murder’ to NBC

Sale marks first foray beyond syndie slate

King World has sold its first primetime network TV series to NBC, the drama “Murder Inc.” from executive producers Nicholas Pileggi, Albert Ruddy and Andre Morgan.

Details of the deal were still being finalized, but NBC sources confirmed an imminent 13-episode pickup on the series, which will be a co-production with NBC Studios.

An NBC spokeswoman and King World declined comment, but insiders say the Peacock web is expected to launch the project as a six-hour miniseries, with seven additional one-our episodes to follow. Fall 1999 is the target launch date.

“Murder Inc.” will dramatize the early days of organized crime through a group of young gangsters who took contracts out on peoples’ lives for the mob. Most of the killers later became kingpins of the Mafia.

Unlike most gangster movies, NBC’s series will show the wiseguys in their youthful prime, with “young, sexy” cast members in their late 20s and early 30s, one source said.

Pileggi and Ruddy are no strangers to mobster-themed projects. Pileggi wrote the screenplay for “GoodFellas” and “Casino,” and he executive produced the TV special “Loyalty and Betrayal: The Story of the American Mob.” Pileggi also created last season’s CBS drama “Michael Hayes” starring David Caruso.

Ruddy produced the most famous mobster film, “The Godfather,” and he has created two TV series, “Walker, Texas Ranger” and the upcoming CBS action drama “Martial Law.” Ruddy’s partner Morgan was executive producer of “Miracle in the Wilderness,” a producer of “Farewell to the King” and executive producer of “Cannonball Run II.”

The “Murder Inc.” order is an important step for King World as it attempts to expand beyond its strength in firstrun syndication, where for years it has dominated with shows such as “Oprah,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” The company also launched two high-profile strips this fall, “The Roseanne Show” and an updated version of “Hollywood Squares.”

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