In what has to be the most unexpected news in television this year, Haim Saban, the man responsible for bringing the Power Rangers to the United States and into pop culture history, has reacquired full rights to the franchise from Disney for a price tag of around $100 million.
Saban was recently featured in a 12-page article in the New Yorker discussing his wealth and thoughts on foreign policy. He drew ink in the last few weeks for his creation of Saban Brands under his own private equity firm that looked to invest $500 million in intellectual property and brands in entertainment, fashion, and consumer industries.
It is through Saban Brands that he reacquired the franchise.
Under the deal, Saban has full control over the franchise, including the library of 700 episodes which under a separate deal will begin airing on Nickelodeon’s cable properties, namely Nicktoons, later this year.
Saban and Nickelodeon will also begin producing 20 episodes for the 18th season of Power Rangers to air next year under the direction of original executive producer Jonathan Tzachor.
“I think this property has significant legs going forward if it’s in an environment where it is nurtured and supported as opposed to being part of a huge portfolio,” Saban said. “I think ‘Power Rangers’ can flourish and be more impactful than it has been for the past five years.”
“Power Rangers is one of the world’s leading children’s entertainment properties, and we are delighted to see its return,” Saban added. “I am confident that the talented management team at Saban Brands will expand our licensing partnerships and capitalize on the significant growth potential of this powerful brand.”
Saban also criticized the Power Rangers most recent owner, saying Disney “did not develop the property and exploit it in the way that it deserves.”
Power Rangers never seemed to have been a priority for Disney as it lacked any promotion in the last couple of years and an uncertain future that concluded with the last new Power Rangers episode airing in December. ABC Kids began airing edited and accentuated episodes of the series’ first season in January, but the series is expected to disappear from Disney networks immediately according to Disney spokesman Jonathan Friedland.
“It didn’t fit with the Disney brand. Moms didn’t like it,” Friedland told the Hollywood Reporter.
Meanwhile, Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami said of the new partnership with Saban, “This fits in nicely as we are doing more things specifically for boys, and we are excited to add proven properties to our original slate.”
Elie Dekel, a former licensing and merchandising executive at 20th Century Fox who is leading the Saban Brands effort, said he would seek to restore the “Power Rangers” to a place of pop culture ubiquity.
Bandai will retain the toy and video game licensing for the franchise.
Pre-production for the 18th season, set to premiere in 2011, has begun with Saban also looking at possible feature film projects (under Paramount Pictures), live tours, and theme park attractions.
Sources: Variety, New York Times: Media Decoder Blog, Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, and Business Week.
Some personal thoughts.
Fans of the series expressed surprise and excitement at the unexpected developments of the day.
I hope Saban and Nickelodeon run with this opportunity to really reboot the franchise. If they really want to reinvigorate Power Rangers and bring it back to its glory days, they’ll have to do more than what they did in either Saban or Disney era. I think it’s important that they not only focus on the young boys demo, but try and appeal to a broader audience, expanding on the huge steps Power Rangers RPM made last year.
An interesting point, Eddie Guzelian, who was executive producer and the creative force behind last year’s acclaimed RPM, a season that turned Power Rangers conventions and formula upside down , in a good way, is currently a Nickelodeon employee working on Penguins of Madagascar. Would be great to have him continue his awesome vision for the series alongside the people who first made Power Rangers what it is.
This is just incredible news. While I wished and hoped for a J.J. Abrams/Star Trek-ish reboot, Haim Saban knows the franchise and actually cares about the franchise to want the best for it (hey, it helped give him his fortune after all!).
This is a huge opportunity, I just hope Saban and Nickelodeon don’t disappoint. I think the fandom has very high expectations going forward.
Some previous articles to check out about Power Rangers…
Power Rangers: The End of an Era. And the Possibility of a New One?
Power Rangers: Still Fighting After 16 Years (But Maybe Not For Long)