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CBS and Imagine Team Up on First Look TV Deal

CBS Corporation and Imagine TV Studios have partnered on a new, four-year first look and co-financing deal for scripted and unscripted television and long-form digital programming, Variety has learned.

Under the terms of the deal, Imagine will partner with CBS to produce programming for CBS TV, CBS All Access and Showtime. CBS’ platforms will get a first look at new Imagine series, with CBS’ studio arm, CBS Television Studios, serving as production partner and worldwide distributor for any shows produced under the deal.

Imagine will retain distribution rights in certain Asian territories, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

The announcement comes on the heels of Imagine’s recent independent $100 million co-financing deal with TVB Ventures for the development and production of TV projects. In February 2016, Imagine also received a $100 million investment from Raine Group.

“I am so excited for this partnership with Les [Moonves], someone I deeply respect and admire, and with whom I share a decades-long friendship,” said Brian Grazer, chairman of Imagine. “For the past 30 years, the hallmark of Imagine’s success has been in cultivating storytellers to create aspirational, exciting and unique films and television series. We intend to sign exclusive overall deals with inventive talent, including writers and filmmakers, to create a modern content studio that values collaboration with autonomy.”

Imagine had been partnered with 20th Century Fox for fifteen years. Now flush with financing, Imagine now has greater flexibility, with the goal of owning a greater share of the shows they produce. This deal allows for greater ownership than a traditional overall deal, because they’re going to bring their own financing to bear.

“I’ve been friends with Brian for 30 years; he is one of the true creative geniuses in our business,” said Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS. “I have long admired the company that he and Ron built, as well as the consistent artistry of their work. Imagine Television series always stand out for their quality, creativity and ability to connect with audiences. This agreement aligns our broadcast, pay cable and streaming businesses with a best-in-class partner, and represents another strategic opportunity to own and distribute more content across a dynamic television landscape.”

Imagine’s TV roster includes Fox’s “Empire,” Netflix’s “Arrested Development,” and NatGeo’s “Genius,” “Mars” and “Breakthrough.” The studio also recently inked screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”) to a first look deal for scripted series.

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