'Betty' showrunner inks mid-seven-figure pact

“Ugly Betty” showrunner Silvio Horta has made a beauty of a deal with ABC Studios.

Scribe has signed a two-year, mid-seven-figure pact that will keep him aboard ABC’s Thursday-night dramedy. Pact will also give him the opportunity to develop new projects for the Disney-owned studio.

Pact reps one of the first big overall TV deals to be confirmed since the WGA strike ended last month. For the scribe tribe, it’s a hopeful sign that such agreements haven’t become extinct, particularly when the talent involved is attached to a successful series.

News comes just weeks after ABC announced an early season-three pickup for “Betty,” which is now filming a handful of episodes to finish out its strike-shortened second season. It also follows the departures of “Betty” exec producers Marco Pennette and James Hayman.

“Betty” returns to the air following its strike-induced hiatus on April 24. The Alphabet will run five more originals of the dramedy this season.

As creator of “Betty,” Horta was able to finally come up with a winning adaptation of the Colombian telenovela “Yo Soy Betty La Fea.”

Producers had tried, and failed, to figure out the proper way to translate the show for U.S. English-speaking auds. Exec producers Salma Hayek and then-Reveille topper Ben Silverman decided to turn to Horta.

“Silvio is a tremendously gifted writer,” Hayek said. “He knows how to mix comedy and drama in a way that very few writers do. He took the premise of the original Colombian soap opera and made `Ugly Betty’ his own. Anyone lucky enough to work with him would kill to do it again.”

Horta’s “Ugly Betty” pilot was so well received by critics that ABC moved the show into the ultra-competitive Thursday 8 p.m. slot not too long before its fall 2006 launch.

Paired with “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Betty” helped make the Alphabet web a player on a night where it was previously an also-ran.

Now, post-strike, series scribes are busy making some adjustments to “Betty,” moving more of the focus back to the main character. Horta has even written the word “heart” in big letters in the writers room, in order to emphasize the need to bring the stories back to the underdog spirit of Betty, an unglamorous everywoman navigating the cut-throat, glamorous fashion magazine world.

Horta’s relationship with ABC and its sister studio preceded “Ugly Betty.”

A year before he signed on to write the “Betty” pilot for ABC Studios and Reveille, Horta teamed with producer Steve Pearlman for the Warner Bros. TV-produced ABC script “Westside,” which explored the then-booming real estate market.

Horta, who’s repped by Endeavor and manager Mikkel Bondesen, created the UPN series “Jake 2.0″ for ABC Studios (then known as Touchstone Television). He also created Sci Fi Channel skein “The Chronicle.” On the feature side, Horta penned the 1998 thriller “Urban Legend.”

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