EXCLUSIVE: In one of the biggest talent deals under the new Viacom leadership, the company has signed a long-term pact with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry, which encompasses television, film and short- form video.
Under the agreement, Perry, who is currently under an exclusive deal at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, will produce approximately 90 episodes annually of original drama and comedy series for BET, which caters primarily to African-American audiences, and other Viacom networks. Viacom will have exclusive licensing rights on the TV programming as well as exclusive distribution rights to Perry’s short-form video content. Additionally, the pact gives Paramount Pictures exclusive first-look rights on Perry’s feature film projects.
The TV pact is similar to Perry’s arrangement at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network where he has been since 2012, helping to put the then-fledgling cable network on the original scripted series map with such series as The Haves And Have Nots, Love Thy Neighbor and For Better Or Worse. The film agreement is effective immediately, while the TV/short-form video one will kick in May 2019 when the OWN pact ends and will feature new series. Both parts of Perry’s Viacom deal will go through 2024.
“Today’s announcement represents an important step forward as Viacom continues to make swift progress against our new strategic plan,” said Bob Bakish, President and CEO of Viacom. “By prioritizing efforts to work with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry, we are better positioned to deliver must-watch content across our brands and platforms. Tyler is a prolific creative force, and I’m excited that this collaboration will bring his signature humor and powerful storytelling to Viacom’s audiences while further cementing BET’s position as the leading home for bold, relevant African-American programming and scripted content.”
Perry’s programming already has presence on BET, which airs two of the sitcoms he had done for TBS, House Of Payne and Meet the Browns, in off-network syndication. Additionally, BET Pictures co-produced with Lionsgate Perry’s debut feature, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, based on his play, which launched his screen career and a very successful Madea feature franchise.
“I am delighted that we are deepening our longstanding relationship with Tyler,”Debra L. Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET Networks, said. “BET co-funded Tyler’s very first feature film, we’ve aired his movies and many of his series with great success on our networks, and we’ve honored his tremendous talent with our signature awards. This partnership will allow us to work even more closely with him and bring more of his iconic content to our viewers.”
After a nine-year stint at Lionsgate, where he had a fist-look deal, Perry became a free agent on the feature side in 2014, taking his time in selecting his next distribution partner.
“Viacom has a rich tradition of reaching my audience through their TV, film and digital platforms and I am excited to partner with them,” said Perry. “I am eager to have one home where I can leverage all of their assets to tell my stories to an even wider audience. I have been very blessed to have worked with the incredible people at Lionsgate and OWN over the last few years and I look forward to continuing my work with them on a non-exclusive basis.”
Under the OWN agreement, which included Perry getting a small stake in the Discovery Communications/Oprah Winfrey venture, the cable network has ordered more than 500 episodes over 5 different Perry shows, which have been airing since May 2013. That includes The Haves and the Have Nots (151 episodes), If Loving You is Wrong (100 episodes, For Better or Worse (117 new episodes), Love Thy Neighbor (118 episodes), and the upcoming new comedy The Paynes (38 episodes), which is set to debut in 2018.
In addition to ushering in scripted series on OWN, Perry’s shows also were a main driving force behind the network’s ratings ascent after early struggles. Fresh episodes of Perry series will continue to air on OWN at least through 2020. In a statement about his pending departure, the network notes its first scripted series successes not produced by Perry, Queen Sugar and Greenleaf, which OWN is planning to build upon as its main scripted series supplier moves to Viacom.
“OWN has an exclusive overall television production deal with Tyler Perry that runs through May of 2019 with series airing on the network through 2020,” the network said. “At the end of the exclusive relationship, OWN and Tyler Perry have the option to work together on a non-exclusive basis. OWN has had great success in the scripted space with Tyler Perry and with its new original dramas Queen Sugar and Greenleaf. The network will continue to aggressively expand its roster of premium original scripted series.”
Perry, who started his career as a playwright, is the creative force behind seven television series and 16 feature films in addition to 20 plays and a best-selling book.
Perry, known for writing, directing and producing his series on a very accelerated schedule, made his foray into television with the TBS/Debmar-Mercury sitcom Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, which was followed by Meet the Browns and For Better Or Worse before he segued to OWN, partnering with then-his close friend Winfrey.
He joined OWN when the network was going through a revamp, which also is the case at BET and the other Viacom networks, all of which have gone through a restructuring over the past few months as part of Bakish’s turnaround plans. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures had been beefing up its roster of high-level talent. The studio just signed Akiva Goldsman to a first-look deal.
Perry is repped by WME.