Carlton Cuse Returns to ABC With $20M Mega-Deal

The prolific showrunner returns to the studio behind 'Lost' with a four-year pact.
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Carlton Cuse

Days after seeing Shonda Rhimes exit for a game-changing deal with Netflix, ABC Studios has reunited with Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse.

The Disney-owned studio has inked a massive four-year overall deal with Cuse and his newly launched Genre Arts banner in what is said to be a pact worth more than $20 million plus a percentage of the backend on programming created under the partnership.

Under the pact, Cuse and Genre Arts — headed by president Lindsey Springer — will create and produce content across all network, cable and streaming platforms while also working with other writers.

Sources note that Cuse opted to return to ABC Studios — where he served as co-showrunner for six seasons of ABC's Lost — after fielding multiple offers from other studios, including co-financing deals. The goal will be for Cuse to help bring ABC Studios into the competitive cable landscape, where the studio thus far has been slowly building a roster of programming via its ABC Signature banner. (Those shows include Showtime's SMILF, FX's animated Deadpool and Freeform's Black-ish spinoff as well as Marvel properties Cloak and Dagger and New Warriors, among others.)

Since wrapping Lost in 2010, Cuse solidified his status as a hitmaker with shows including A&E's Psycho prequel Bates Motel (which wrapped its run in April after five seasons) and The Returned (canceled after one season); USA Network's Colony (heading into its third season); and FX's The Strain (currently airing its fourth and final season). Next up he has Amazon's Jack Ryan series as well as Hulu pilot Locke and Key. Cuse will remain involved in Colony (Universal Cable Productions), Jack Ryan (Paramount and Skydance) as well as Locke and Key (IDW Entertainment), with all three dramas existing outside of the ABC Studios deal.

Cuse, who had been without an overall deal since exiting his pact with A+E Studios, will set up his Genre Arts banner on the Disney Studios lot with Springer (previously head of development for Amblin TV) focused on finding and developing the next generation of showrunners. In his career, Cuse has had a number of successful partnerships, including on Lost (which he ran with Damon Lindelof), Bates Motel (with Kerry Ehrin), The Strain (with Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan) and Colony (with Ryan Condal). He has groomed a generation of showrunners, including Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (Once Upon a Time), Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) and Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man), among others.

"It is with great pleasure that I am returning to ABC Studios, my happy home for six years during Lost. I am very excited to be working alongside wonderful and iconic Disney brands like Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm to create and bring entertaining and compelling stories to the screen," Cuse said in a statement. "The very best part of my job is working with other writers to come up with cool ideas, solve story problems and get stories made."

The Cuse deal comes just days after Grey's Anatomy and Scandal creator Rhimes sent shock waves through the TV industry when she jumped from her decade-plus home at ABC Studios to Netflix with a year remaining on her $10 million-a-year pact. Rhimes' deal with Netflix — estimated by one industry insider to be valued at $100 million — was the first clear indication of the arms race for talent as streaming outlets, broadcast and cable networks look to lock up top showrunners amid fierce competition for scripted originals.

"Forming a partnership with a writer-producer-director as talented and prolific as Carlton Cuse is a major victory for ABC Studios," said ABC Studios president Patrick Moran. "We're so looking forward to working with him again and bringing his signature creativity back to our studio."

Cuse is repped by WME, Syndicate and attorney Karl Austen.

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