Cannell wins back rights to TV series

Regains distrib rights to 1,000 hours of programming

Prolific TV scribe Stephen J. Cannell, who once headed one of Hollywood’s largest indie TV production outfits, has regained custody of his creative offspring.

Cannell has reacquired the distribution rights to about 1,000 hours of Cannell-produced series and made-fors that were transferred to Fox when News Corp. purchased New World Communications Group in 1996. Cannell sold his Cannell Entertainment outfit to New World for $30 million in March 1995.

Now, worldwide sales of such Cannell action-adventure fare as “21 Jump Street,” “Wiseguy,” “The Commish” and “Renegade” will be handled by Stephen J. Cannell Prods. Not covered by the new deal are two of Cannell’s biggest TV hits, “The A-Team” and “Hunter,” whose distribution rights are controlled by Universal and Columbia, respectively.

Pat Kenney, who was Cannell Entertainment’s distribution prexy in the 1980s and early ’90s, will spearhead the push to boost global distribution of the titles, some of which may be marketed under a “Stephen J. Cannell Presents” banner.

“It’s a great deal for (Fox) and it’s a great deal for me,” Cannell told Daily Variety. “It gives me the opportunity to personally sell my library, which I really invested in. I spent some 20-odd years building it up … and I wanted to be personally involved with the sales. Fox accepted that and saw it as a big plus.”

Cannell’s new arrangement with Fox does not involve a cash buyout, but rather a renegotiation of the terms of their distribu-tion agreement. Neither Cannell nor reps for 20th Century Fox TV would comment on specifics, but it’s understood that under the new pact, Cannell will pay Fox a royalty on international and domestic sales of the titles.

Cannell maintained a certain leverage with respect to his older series because he never sold the library outright to New World. At the time of the sale, Cannell could not come to terms with then New World chief Ronald Perelman over the value of his library, so both agreed to a long-term distribution deal instead. The complex deal, which Fox inherited, hinged on New World hitting specific gross dollar amounts for each title, rather than a specific time frame.

In its heyday, Cannell Entertainment was one of Hollywood’s hottest indie production-distribution outfits, chalking up $80 million in network and syndie programming orders for the 1987-88 season. Until the sale to New World, Cannell and his wife, Marcia, owned 100% of the company, handling the risky business of deficit financing through bank loans.

Today, Cannell is focused on his new career path as a novelist and film scribe. His latest book, “Riding the Snake,” is due out in September. MGM is developing a feature pic based on his 1997 thriller “King Con.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

  • UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad

    UCP to Develop Ann Shen’s 'Bad Girls Throughout History' as Anthology Series

    Universal Content Productions (UCP) is developing an anthology series based on Ann Shen’s book “Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World.” The project will be titled “Bad Girls,” with each episode featuring a different influential woman throughout history, including famous figures like Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, Mata Hari, and Ruth Bader [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content