CBS, Imagine Sign First-Look Co-Financing Pact

THR 100 List 2017 - Brian Grazer - Getty -H 2017
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CBS Corp. is giving Imagine Television a new window.

The independent production company has struck a new four-year co-financing and first-look deal to produce scripted, unscripted and longform digital programming, the companies announced Monday.

Under the pact, Imagine and CBS will co-produce and co-own programming for CBS, CBS All Access and Showtime, as well as non-CBS affiliated platforms. CBS Corp. will have the first look at Imagine TV series, while CBS Television Studios will become a production partner and worldwide distributor for programming. Imagine will retain distribution rights in certain Asian territories including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

The deal, announced by CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and Imagine Entertainment chairman Brian Grazer, comes after Imagine recently unveiled an independent $100 million co-financing deals with TVB Ventures for development and production on TV projects.

"I’ve been friends with Brian for 30 years; he is one of the true creative geniuses in our business,” Moonves said. “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's TV slate currently includes Empire, Arrested Development and Genius, among others.

“I am so excited for this partnership with Les, someone I deeply respect and admire, and with whom I share a decadeslong friendship. 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. 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 said.

The Imagine-CBS Corp. pact comes after Imagine TV had a longtime overall deal at 20th Century Fox Television, but opted to leave the studio system in a bid to increase its ownership participation in original content. Larger production companies have done the same, striking out as indie studios and then teaming with larger companies for distribution. CBS Television Studios recently secured an ownership stake in Aaron Kaplan's indie studio Kapital Entertainment and The Mark Gordon Co. left ABC Studios and instead pacted with Entertainment One for distribution.