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Dan Fogelman is cementing his future.
The This Is Us creator has inked a new, five-year overall deal with Disney’s 20th Century Fox Television that sources say is among the biggest in the industry. The pact — which has been in the works for more than a year — is in the nine-figure range. It includes what sources say is a giant uptick in the backend ownership stake of mega-hit This Is Us on top of the larger total financial guarantee. The deal places Fogelman within the upper realm of television’s mega-deals. Those include Greg Berlanti ($400 million from Warner Bros.), Ryan Murphy ($300 million from Netflix) and Shonda Rhimes ($100 million at Netflix).
Fogelman, who was drawing interest from multiple other outlets, is the first producer to land one of the increasingly common mega-deals at 20th Century Fox TV as competition for top producers continues to reach new eye-popping levels. Sources note that a revival of Fox’s baseball drama Pitch — canceled after one season on the network — remains on the table (possibly for Disney+) as 20th TV pulled out all the stops to ensure Fogelman remained with the studio as other top producers — like Murphy and Howard Gordon — departed for lucrative deals elsewhere.
The pact is Fogelman’s second with 20th TV and the first since the formerly Fox-owned studio became part of the Disney family. Ultimately, Fogelman winds up back where he started after he left Disney-owned ABC Studios in 2015 after a three-year tenure in which he created Fox’s Grandfathered and ABC’s Galavant and The Neighbors. At the time, four studios were courting the writer, director and executive producer. Dana Walden, who then ran both Fox and 20th TV, heavily pursued Fogelman and inked him to an eight-figure deal that brought him to the studio. Walden is among the execs who recently joined Disney after its $71.3 billion Fox asset deal that included 20th TV.
“I continue to be so grateful to my incredible partners at 20th — Peter Rice, Dana Walden, Jonnie Davis, Howard Kurtzman and every single person at the studio whom I’ve been fortunate enough to work with these past four years,” Fogelman said Thursday in a statement. “It has been the best partnership of my career, I’ve never felt so supported, and I am beyond excited to begin this next chapter at Disney.”
NBC’s This Is Us is fresh off its third season. The time-jumping family entry starring Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown ranks as broadcast’s highest-rated drama. Fogelman recently told THR that he thinks the series has reached the “midpoint” of its run. This Is Us is awaiting a formal renewal which, sources say, will likely be for multiple seasons and potentially its end game. The show has earned 11 Emmy nominations as well as a Golden Globe for best drama for its first two seasons. Fogelman won a Humanitas Prize for his This Is Us pilot script.
“Dan Fogelman is everything you could want in a creator — inventive, collaborative, wise, funny, unbelievably talented and improbably humble,” said Walden, now chairman of Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment. “He has devoted his heart and soul to every perfect episode of This Is Us. He deserves every bit of the success he’s enjoying right now and Craig [Hunegs], Jonnie, Howard and I consider ourselves lottery winners to be in business with him.”
Fogelman’s is the ninth overall deal that has been announced in the four weeks since 20th TV became part of the Disney fold. He joins Drew Goddard, Jason Winer, Octavia Spencer, Nora Smith, Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar, Marlene King, Liz Meriwether and Amy Holden Jones.
The overall-deals space remains red hot as traditional studios look to compete for top talent with Netflix. The war for top talent continues to escalate as media behemoths like Disney, WarnerMedia and Comcast look to grab a share of the streaming market with platforms of their own. Apple, too, is entering the space as the arms race for proven showrunners and top talent continues to escalate.
Fogelman’s film credits include directing Life, Itself for Amazon. His first feature was Pixar’s Cars, and he also wrote the screenplays for Bolt and Tangled. WME negotiated the deal.
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