Saban buys back Power Rangers

Nickelodeon will air 18th season of series

Haim Saban is buying back the Power Rangers from Walt Disney with the hope to take the entertainment franchise that he launched to TV and toy stardom in the 1990s to new fans.

His Saban Capital Group is also taking it to Viacom's Nickelodeon as the new U.S. home for the series, which is heading into its 18th season with a new cast and the goal to rejuvenate the fading franchise.

Library episodes of the show will start airing on Nicktoons later this year, with 20 new episodes set for Nickelodeon and Nicktoons in 2011 under the direction of original executive producer Jonathan Tzachor.

Saban is buying the franchise in a renewal of his collaboration with Toei Co., the creator of the original Japanese Power Rangers TV show and an underlying rights-holder.

Financial terms weren't disclosed, but the price tag is believed to be less than $100 million. Nickelodeon in a deal similarly focused on reinvigorating an older franchise last year bought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for $60 million.

The Power Rangers becomes the first property for Saban Brands, a new arm of SCG with a $500 million budget that will acquire entertainment, lifestyle, fashion and other brands.

Disney has been featuring shows starring the Power Rangers on Saturday mornings on ABC and on Disney XD channels in foreign markets, but it's doubtful the family-friendly conglomerate will miss it much given that it deemed the property too violent for its target audience of young boys.

"It didn't fit with the Disney brand. Moms didn't like it," said Disney spokemsan Jonathan Friedland.

The Power Rangers are expected to disappear from Disney and ABC lineups "immediately," Friedland said.

Disney's recent acquisition of Marvel also gives Disney ample access to new action content for the boys' demo.

"Power Rangers is one of the world's leading children's entertainment properties, and we are delighted to see its return," said SCG chairman and CEO Haim Saban. "I am confident that the talented management team at Saban Brands will expand our licensing partnerships and capitalize on the significant growth potential of this powerful brand."

Saban has been known to have had a continuing passion for the franchise, which went to Disney when the entertainment giant acquired Fox Family Worldwide, a joint venture of Saban and News Corp., in 2001.

The live-action series about kids who morph into superheroes debuted in 1993 under the original title "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," became the most-watched children's TV show in the U.S. and helped establish a Fox Kids programming block. The franchise also saw two films: "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" (1995) and "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie" (1997).

The series has been translated into various languages and has aired in more than 60 countries. The Power Rangers also became the top boys' franchise in the world in terms of TV ratings and toy sales from 1993-1997, according to SCG. It has generated "well over $5 billion" in worldwide licensed product and promotion revenue, it said.

Fans of the Power Rangers franchise were particularly disappointed that Disney XD didn't have the show on its U.S. schedule upon its 2009 start, which led to chatter on blogs and various petitions.

Saban is betting that the broader exposure on Nick will boost ratings for the show and once again make it a key part of youth culture in the U.S.

The current pre-production process for the show's 18th season involves the search for a new cast and a new theme.

Saban is also eyeing Power Rangers film projects, live tours and theme park attractions.

The Saban acquisition includes worldwide rights to the Power Rangers brand and the more than 700 TV episodes produced over 17 years. Saban also immediately unveiled a new, long-term master toy and video game license deal with Bandai Namco Group, which has handled toy lines for the franchise since its inception.

While some, including at Disney, have criticized fight scenes on the TV show as violent, Saban Wednesday said the brand emphasizes the importance of teamwork, responsibility and helping others.