'Modern Family' Co-Creator Steve Levitan Inks New Nine-Figure Deal With Disney's 20th TV

Steve Levitan - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of FOX

A year after his last pact expired, Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan has decided to remain at 20th TV and has signed a new overall deal with the Disney-owned studio.

The deal, which sources say is for five years and a total of $125 million, will see Levitan continue to serve as co-showrunner (alongside fellow Modern Family co-creator Chris Lloyd) on the final season of ABC's award-winning comedy as well as create, develop and direct new projects for the studio he has called home for nearly two decades.

In a "Showrunner Spotlight" interview with The Hollywood Reporter's TV's Top 5 podcast (posting Friday), Levitan opens up about his plans for the next stage of his career — including creating new shows, overseeing new writers and becoming one of the more prolific producers who juggle multiple programs at once. "There are a lot of opportunities at the new company — whether it's developing for ABC or Hulu, FX or Disney+, I'm excited about the opportunities," he said. "Once Modern Family ends, I will take a three-week breather and dive right back in."  

Levitan, who had been outspoken about waiting to make his decision on a new overall deal until after Disney's acquisition of the formerly Fox-owned studio was completed, tested the overalls market over the past year, with outlets including Netflix said to have engaged with the creator of one of television's biggest comedy hits of the past decade-plus. Ultimately, Levitan opted to remain with his longtime home at 20th TV as former Fox executives Dana Walden and Peter Rice — with whom he's worked for the past decade — moved over to Disney as part of its acquisition of the studio (among other assets). The new pact solidifies Levitan's post-Modern Family future as the ABC comedy this week kicked off its 11th and final season.

"I wanted to have the answer to that and what's going to happen to Modern Family before I moved forward," he told THR in October. "I have had some lovely offers to come talk to some people but so far, I've been putting all that off until we get things settled. The second-to-last piece was seeing that [Fox execs] Peter Rice and Dana Walden were going to Disney. And then figuring out when Modern Family will end. Then I'll have all the information I need to start to decide if I will make a deal with Disney or start looking elsewhere."

Levitan last year was among the producers who voiced their embarrassment over their personal affiliation with the owners of Fox News. Levitan at the time went so far as to say he was so repulsed by the network's coverage of President Donald Trump's immigration policy that he was willing to part ways with the company (though he'd later backtrack that sentiment). Still, the studio's then-affiliation with Fox News put pressure on talent deals with studio-based producers including Levitan and Seth MacFarlane. (Levitan's deal expired in July 2018, while MacFarlane's is up this month.)

“While I’ll miss seeing Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham at the Fox company picnic, I’m thrilled to make this move to Disney where I can still cling to so many people I love and respect," Levitan said Thursday in a statement. "Good friends like Dana Walden, Peter Rice, Bob Iger, Howard Kurtzman, Jonnie Davis and Carolyn Cassidy, to name just a few, have been steadfast supporters over these last 20 years, and I’m deeply grateful to join them and Craig Hunegs as I try to produce a few of the 46,000 shows on television."
“We made a deal with Steve 20 years ago and every year we’ve worked together has been fruitful, unexpected, and very meaningful to all of us. Modern Family, which Steve created with Chris Lloyd, is one of the funniest, best and most award-winning comedies in the history of television,” said Dana Walden, chairman at Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment. “He’s a brilliant writer and an extraordinary producer, who asks more of himself than we ever could. His love of comedy is evident in everything he writes and he elevates everything on which he works. On a personal note, he’s a spectacular person who has become a close friend and I’m thrilled that he’s continuing to make his home with us. Finally, it’s worth noting that my quote would have been significantly funnier had he punched it up.”

The value of Levitan's deal is a credit to what he's accomplished with Modern Family, the ensemble comedy that tied an Emmy record for most series wins (five straight). Unlike other showrunners who have cashed in with eye-popping mega-deals, Levitan tends to take a more specific approach to development rather than working on multiple series at once (like Greg Berlanti, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy).

Levitan's pact comes as the overall deals market continues to reach new heights as media titans Disney, Comcast, WarnerMedia and Apple bulk up on top hit-makers as they prepare to go-head-to-head with Netflix and launch their own respective streaming platforms. For her part, ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke told THR in the spring that she "can't wait" for the next show to come from Levitan as the writer, producer and director plots his follow-up to Modern Family. Burke also expressed hope for a Modern Family spinoff, though none are in the works at the moment after conversations over the years that never led to so much as a script for one. (Levitan also weighs in on the future of the franchise during this week's installment of TV's Top 5.)

Since becoming part of the expanded Disney Television Studios, 20th TV has been on an overall deal spree, inking pacts with This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, Drew GoddardJason WinerOctavia SpencerNora SmithJake Kasdan and Melvin MarMarlene King, Liz Meriwether and Amy Holden Jones, among others.

Levitan, whose credits also include Just Shoot Me, Wings, Frasier, The Larry Sanders Show and L.A. to Vegas, is repped by attorney Sam Fischer at ZIffren Brittenham.