Michael Bay Black SailsEXCLUSIVE: Starz is heading out to the high seas with a straight-to-series order for a pirate adventure drama executive produced by Michael Bay. The series, tentatively titled Black Sails, was created by Jon Steinberg and Robert Levine. The eight-episode drama is set 20 years before the events in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island and chronicles the adventures of fabled buccaneer Captain Flint and his men. Flint, the most brilliant and feared pirate captain of his day, takes on a fast-talking young addition to his crew who goes by the name John Silver. Threatened with extinction on all sides, they fight for the survival of New Providence Island, the most notorious criminal haven of its day — a debauched paradise teeming with pirates, prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers, a place defined by its enlightened ideals and stunning brutality. “Starz is excited to be working with a visionary like Michael,” said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. “Along with the high-octane action that is a hallmark of a Michael Bay production, it has the elements that Starz originals are striving to bring to the premium landscape: epic, larger-than-life, cinematic storytelling. The series is also a property we believe will appeal to the global content marketplace with broadcasters around the world.” The latter is important to Starz because, like with the Spartacus franchise and Magic City, Starz owns all domestic and international rights to Black Sails.

Treasure Island Prequel Black SailsThis marks the first series for Bay, director-producer of such blockbusters as the Transformers and Bad Boys movie franchises, who over the past couple of years has focused on expanding his brand to television through his Platinum Dunes banner. “I’m excited to branch out into television, especially doing a long-form series for Starz, a network known for supporting cutting-edge programming,” Bay said. And like his brand of big-budget, high-octane movies, Black Sails too is expected to be an elaborate, high-end drama in the vein of HBO’s Game Of Thrones. While he will not direct the series, Bay has developed the visual idea for what the show would look like. He is executive producing Black Sails with his Platinum Dunes partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form. On the unscripted side, WME-repped Bay has a series in development at A&E.

Pirates TV SeriesBlack Sails is one of four high-profile pirate drama series projects in the works. But while it had been kept under wraps until now, Black Sails was actually set up at Starz in December 2010, months before any of the other three projects: NBC’s The Republic Of Pirates produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, Fox’s Port Royal produced by Graham King and Gale Anne Hurd, and Fox’s Pyrates produced by Ridley and Tony Scott. After Jericho co-creator and Human Target developer Steinberg and Human Target writer Levine wrote the pilot script based on an idea by Steinberg, Starz ordered a second script. The two also put together an outline for the season and assembled a writing team, while Starz hired a line producer and began scouting locations, settling on South Africa. With a significant amount of prep work already done, the series is on track to shoot at Cape Town Studios later this year and be the first of the four pirate projects to hit the air.

In addition to Black Sails, WME-repped Steinberg has pilot Beauty And The Beast in contention at ABC.

This marks a return to the fantasy/adventure genre for Starz, which started off its original scripted series efforts with Spartacus and Camelot before moving on to contemporary political drama Boss and the 1960s Miami drama Magic City.