Imagine Entertainment continues to secure financial partners for its television production efforts as an independent studio. Its TV operation, Imagine Television Studios, has entered into a four-year co-financing and first-look agreement with CBS Corporation for scripted and unscripted television and long-form digital programming.
Under the agreement reached by CBS Corp. Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves and Imagine Entertainment Chairman Brian Grazer, Imagine will partner with CBS Corp. to co-produce and co-own programming for the CBS broadcast network and its sibling premium cable network Showtime and SVOD service CBS All Access. The three CBS-owned outlets will have first-look at new Imagine TV series. Additionally, CBS and Imagine will have the ability to co-finance and co-produce projects for non-CBS affiliated platforms.
TV programming generated under the agreement will be co-produced by Imagine TV and CBS Television Studios, with CBS handling worldwide distribution. Imagine will retain distribution rights in certain Asian territories, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
The CBS deal comes on the heels of Imagine forming a $100M 50-50 TV production co-financing venture with TVB, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasts Limited. Under that agreement, TVB landed broadcast and distribution rights to Imagine series in China, including Hong Kong and Macao, as well as Taiwan.
“I am so excited for this partnership with Les, someone I deeply respect and admire, and with whom I share a decades-long friendship,” Grazer said. “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.”
Going forward, “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,” Grazer added.
In one of its first talent deals as an independent studio, Imagine recently signed Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to a first-look deal for scripted television.
“I’ve been friends with Brian for 30 years; he is one of the true creative geniuses in our business,” said Moonves. “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 Entertainment, founded by Grazer and Ron Howard, went independent last year when it secured a $100M investment from Raine Group. Also last year, Imagine sold a stake to China’s CMC Holdings, which orchestrated the Imagine-TVB’s production venture.
Before that, Imagine TV did a 16-year stint as a pod at 20th Century Fox TV, producing such series as 24 and Arrested Development for Fox. Its series for other networks via 20th TV included the CBS drama Shark. Imagine’s current on-air series, which stem from the company’s relationship with 20tv, include hit drama Empire on Fox, Genius and Mars for National Geographic Channel and a new season of Arrested Development, for Netflix. Imagine TV recently received 16 Emmy nominations. including ten for Genius.
The partnership with CBS “allows us the amazing opportunity to work with the talented and respected executives at CBS in developing hit shows for their diverse portfolio and the ability to further our reach into all areas of cable and digital,” said Francie Calfo, President of Imagine Television. “Both these options make us a great home for talent,”
CBS Corp. has been expanding its TV roster by aligning with top independent production companies. Earlier this year, the company acquired an ownership stake in Kapital Entertainment, entering a joint venture agreement with the company founded and run by Aaron Kaplan.