2:45pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Seth MacFarlane's 'The Orville' Moving to Hulu for Season 3
The Orville is blasting off to a new outlet.
Seth MacFarlane's space dramedy will move from Fox to Hulu for its upcoming third season. Creator, writer and star MacFarlane made the announcement Saturday afternoon during the show's San Diego Comic-Con panel, noting that the production demands of the increasingly ambitious project made delivering the show to the network for its planned midseason debut impossible. The series will launch on Hulu in late 2020 after having been off the air for a year and a half. Hulu has been the SVOD home to the first two seasons of The Orville.
With the move, the Disney-owned Orville will now air on a Disney-controlled platform. The show was originally picked up straight to series at Fox and was produced in-house by 20th TV. The TV studio officially became part of the Disney fold earlier this year when the company's $71.3 billion acquisition closed. Fox will no longer have to pay a licensing fee to air the dramedy. What's more, the move also reduces MacFarlane's relationship a bit with the network whose parent company also owns Fox News. MacFarlane has repeatedly criticized Fox News and has said he was "embarrassed" to work at the same company. (Following the Fox asset sale, he now is a Disney employee whose show, Family Guy, is licensed to Fox Entertainment.)
"The Orville has been a labor of love for me, and there are two companies which have supported that vision in a big way: 20th Century Fox Television, where I’ve had a deal since the start of my career, and Fox Broadcasting Co., now Fox Entertainment, which has been my broadcast home for over 20 years. My friends at the network understood what I was trying to do with this series, and they’ve done a spectacular job of marketing, launching and programming it for these past two seasons," said MacFarlane. "But as the show has evolved and become more ambitious production-wise, I determined that I would not be able to deliver episodes until 2020, which would be challenging for the network. So, we began to discuss how best to support the third season in a way that worked for the show. It’s exactly this kind of willingness to accommodate a show’s creative needs that’s made me want to stick around for so long. I am hugely indebted to Charlie Collier and Fox Entertainment for their generosity and look forward to developing future projects there. And to my new friends at Hulu, I look forward to our new partnership exploring the galaxy together."
The show's move arrives as MacFarlane's overall deal with now Disney-owned 20th Century Fox TV expired last month. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that many, if not all, the major media companies have been pursuing what will likely be a monster nine-figure overall deal with MacFarlane, who created the multibillion-dollar Family Guy franchise.
Aside from the ownership factor, moving The Orville to Hulu makes sense given that Family Guy ranks at or near the top of the Disney-owned streamer's most-watched library titles as the animation boom has sparked Netflix and CBS to launch studios of their own. Animation titles like Family Guy, Rick and Morty and Bob's Burgers have become billion-dollar franchises and outlets like Apple, Hulu, Fox and CBS All Access have continued to ramp up investment in the space. MacFarlane is considered the biggest name in the genre, though sources say his main focus right now is on acting. (In addition to The Orville, he can currently be seen on Showtime's Roger Ailes limited series The Loudest Voice.)
The Orville has been a passion project for creator and star MacFarlane. The sci-fi spoof performed solidly in its sophomore frame, doubling its 18-49 rating after seven days. The Orville was the last current Fox series to receive word on its future in May.
The Orville was scheduled to be part of Fox's midseason roster, which now includes 911: Lone Star, Deputy, Filthy Rich, Next, Duncanville, Outmatched and The Great North for midseason, alongside the returning series Last Man Standing and another cycle of The Masked Singer. Fox, specifically, has been making a massive animated push and has the rookies Bless the Harts, Duncanville and The Great North slated to air during the 2019-20 broadcast season. Those will join returning favorites Family Guy, The Simpsons and Bob's Burgers as the network prepares for a world in which all three of those iconic comedies could be moved to other outlets. All three are owned by 20th TV and, given the studio's sale to Disney, the new studio-free Fox Entertainment now has to pay a steep licensing fee to broadcast them. New owners Disney could stand to ink hugely lucrative new deals for all three series should the company opt to move them outside of the new Fox.
"Fox Entertainment has been a fantastic home for The Orville and their willingness to support the show’s move to Hulu is incredibly appreciated; they really are great partners to us on so many shows and this is one more example. We’re thrilled as a studio to find this creative solution which is so meaningful to Seth and keeps the show on track to continue entertaining its millions of fans,” said Carolyn Cassidy, president of creative affairs at 20th TV. Cassidy was tapped to run the Disney-owned studio (alongside Howard Kurtzman) earlier this month after 20th's Jonnie Davis moved over to replace Patrick Moran atop ABC Studios. Keeping MacFarlane will be a top priority for 20th and Disney.
At Hulu, The Orville joins a roster of scripted originals that includes Castle Rock, Runaways, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Handmaid's Tale, Harlots, Disney+ transfer High Fidelity, Little Fires Everywhere, Looking for Alaska, PEN15, Ramy, Shrill, Solar Opposites, Veronica Mars, Reprisal and many more as the now Disney-controlled streamer bulks up on more adult-focused originals. Hulu also is home to the library of the MacFarlane-produced animated series American Dad. It's unclear if all episodes of The Orville will debut at the same time or weekly.
"We know our viewers are huge fans of The Orville, along with many of Seth MacFarlane’s groundbreaking hit shows, and we can’t wait to bring season three to them exclusively on the platform,” said Craig Erwich, senior vp content development at Hulu. “Hulu is a home for the world’s most sought-after creative talent, and we’re incredibly excited to welcome Seth and the entire cast and creative team of The Orville to our Hulu Originals slate."