EXCLUSIVE: CBS Television Studios has signed a first-look production deal with Propagate, the company led by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens. The agreement covers scripted projects from Propagate as well as subsidiaries Electus and Big Breakfast, across all platforms.
Under the pact, Propagate already is developing several new shows, including a re-imagining of Zorro with a female protagonist from Alfredo Barrios Jr. (Magnum PI) and drama Home from writer Jorge Reyes (Queen of the South) — both at NBC — as well as an untitled project from Writer Melissa Scrivner-Love (Fear the Walking Dead) at CBS.
Zorro, written and executive produced by Barrios Jr., is a modern-day retelling of the Zorro mythology that follows Z, a female descendant of the warrior bloodline who will go to great lengths to protect the defenseless in her community.
Written and executive produced by Reyes — who hails from Buffalo — Home follows the Candelarias, a wealthy Puerto Rican family from Buffalo whose lives are upended when the patriarch dies leaving controlling ownership of his empire unexpectedly to his daughter. In one day, she becomes one of the most powerful women in the country and will have to navigate the male-dominated worlds of pro football and real estate, making decisions that could ruin the legacy her father built while trying to keep her family united.
“Ben and Howard are two of the most creative and prolific producers working in television today,” said CBS Television Studios President David Stapf. “They have an uncanny ability to ferret out concepts and formats that resonate with viewers. Their unique perspective and superb taste will be a fantastic addition to the already powerful CBS Television Studios roster.”
CBS TV Studios has a history with Propagate and its Electus subsidiary, which was launched and run by Silverman before he left to partner with Owens in Propagate and they subsequently acquired the company. The relationship started with Electus’ awards-winning Jane the Virgin, which ran on The CW for five seasons. It also includes Propagate’s first scripted series, Charmed, on the CW, as well as Blood and Treasure on CBS and the upcoming comedy Broke, starring Pauley Perrette and Jane the Virgin‘s Jaime Camil, also on CBS.
“We’re thrilled to take Propagate’s already fruitful relationship with CBS Television Studios to the next level,” said Propagate co-CEO and chairman Silverman. “We look forward to identifying and developing more unique, compelling content to collaborate on for a variety of platforms.”
Propagate’s relationship with CBS Corp. extends beyond CBS TV Studios. The company has two series on Pop, alternative sketch comedy show Hot Date, from Propagate’s Big Breakfast; and the upcoming coming-of-age comedy series Best Intentions. Additionally, Propagate just signed on to sell internationally documentary features and docuseries for Showtime.
“We are extremely proud of what our scripted team has accomplished in just over two years, and our relationship with CBS allows us to commit even more resources to producing the quality, culturally resonant scripted series for which we are known,” said Propagate co-CEO Owens.
Propagate also was attracted by CBS TV Studios’ current push to expand its business beyond CBS, the CW and CBS All Access as it has been ramping up sales to outside networks. “They want to work with everyone, as do we,” Owens said. “We thought it’s a place that not only gives us creative autonomy and freedom but allows us to grow our scripted business, which is important to us.”
Greg Lipstone serves as president of Propagate, and Drew Buckley is CEO of Electus and chairman of Big Breakfast. Propagate’s scripted television team is led by EVP Rodney Ferrell, who previously served as president of Joel Silver’s Silver Pictures Television. He’s joined by Isabel San Vargas, President of Production and Operations and Head of Comedy, and Luke Kelly-Clyne (formerly of CollegeHumor), Head of Development, Big Breakfast, as well as development executives Georgia Berger and Dan Thunell.
Silverman is the former co-chairman of NBC Universal and Universal Media Studios, founder of Reveille and Electus, and has executive produced such series as Jane the Virgin, Ugly Betty, The Office, The Tudors and Marco Polo and has brought dozens of international formats for U.S. TV adaptation. On the feature side, Silverman is producing sports biopics Hands of Stone and Clemente.
Owens, who founded Propagate, was former president of National Geographic Channels where he was responsible for the development of the franchise series Wicked Tuna, Brain Games and Ultimate Survival Alaska and also supervised the development and production of Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, and Killing Jesus. Previously, he was Reveille’s first employee, having worked with Silverman as an agent at WMA.
The tale of Zorro is a very popular piece of IP that has been pursued for a slew of screen adaptations, including movies that have starred Douglas Fairbanks, Antonio Banderas and Alain Delon as the masked hero. The 1957 Zorro TV series was headlined by Guy Williams. By focusing the series on a female descendant, the NBC take is reminiscent of several successful reboots of famous mythology, including Syfy’s Van Helsing.
Barrios Jr. is co-executive producer on CBS/CBS TV Studios’ drama series Magnum PI, a reboot of the popular TV series. His TV series credits also include Six, Burn Notice and Justice.
Reyes, who most recently worked as writer/producer on the popular USA crime drama Queen Of The South, also created the critically the UPN legal drama series Kevin Hill starring Taye Diggs and Christina Hendricks. He’s repped by Verve, Zero Gravity Management and Jackoway Tyerman.
Scrivner-Love also developed a project with Propagate and CBS TV Studios last season. The action one-hour Strong Girl, an adaptation of a Korean format, was set at the CW with Ronda Rousey executive producing. Scrivner-Love, whose series credits also include Person of Interest and Rosewood, is repped by 3 Arts.