Company nabs franchise back from Disney

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The Power Rangers have come home.

Haim Saban’s newly formed Saban Brands company has re-acquired from Disney the rights to the “Power Rangers” franchise that built Saban’s fortune in the mid-1990s. Saban has cut a deal with Nickelodeon for 20 new “Power Rangers” episodes, while the library of some 700 older segs will begin airing on cabler Nicktoons later this year.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s likely that the property commanded a price tag in the nine-figure range. At the time Disney acquired “Power Rangers” along with its acquisition of Fox Family Worldwide in 2001, the franchise had grossed an astounding $5 billion in retail sales alone.

Saban Brands prexy Elie Dekel said Haim Saban approached Disney about retrieving the Power Rangers franchise more than six months ago because he was convinced it had potential for a strong revival. Disney has maintained some “Power Rangers” merchandise licensing and has had episodes of the show airing in foreign markets. But the property clearly hasn’t been a priority for the Mouse.

Dekel sees great promise in introducing the Power Rangers — revolving around a group of ordinary youths who can “morph” into superheroes — to a new generation of kids through the TV series, live touring events and feature films, among other efforts.

“Haim has always felt that the brand could truly be evergreen, and while Disney continued to produce the series and support consumer products part of the business, we still see tremendous untapped potential,” Dekel said.

Dekel is very familiar with the property, having been a Saban Entertainment exec at the time it took off. Haim Saban developed the concept after being impressed by similar live-action kidvid fare he saw in Japan. He cut a deal in the late 1980s with Toei Film to develop his own spin on the genre. He pitched it to U.S. outlets for years but didn’t get any takers until Fox’s fledgling Fox Kids kidvid block picked it up. “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” as the show was known in its first two seasons, was an overnight sensation after it bowed on Fox Kids in 1993.

A few years later, Saban and Fox later created a joint kidvid venture, Fox Family Worldwide, that incorporated the Power Rangers and acquired the Family Channel. Disney bought Fox Family Worldwide in 2001 and turned the cabler into ABC Family Channel.

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