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I. Marlene King is leaving Warner Bros. Television after a decade with the independent studio.
Instead, the Pretty Little Liars showrunner has signed what sources say is a two-year overall deal with Disney-owned 20th Century Fox Television. Sources say should the spinoff earn a second season, a new showrunner would be named.
Under the pact, King will write, develop, produce and direct projects for broadcast, cable and streaming platforms via her Long Lake Media banner. (Long Lake’s executive vp development Lauren Wagner will also make the move to 20th.)
Sources say King, who developed Pretty Little Liars for Disney’s younger-skewing Freeform, will remain on board the cabler’s recently launched spinoff Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists (from Warner Horizon) as an exec producer. (Helping King remain with her beloved franchise is the fact that the show airs on a Disney-owned outlet.)
“Terence [Carter, executive vp development at 20th] and I were obsessed with bringing Marlene to 20th TV because she’s such a special talent — her voice is so specific and wildly entertaining and relevant,” 20th TV president of creative affairs Jonnie Davis said Monday in a statement. “Pretty Little Liars is a delicious, smart, juicy soap that spoke to women, teens and millennials in such a powerful way, and Now and Then remains a favorite film of so many of us here. Marlene’s hire is part of our ongoing strategy of bringing the best creative talents to our studio and offering them the widest array of platforms for which to produce their biggest, boldest ideas. We’re thrilled she’s made 20th her exclusive home.”
King is the second showrunner to ink an overall deal with 20th in the days after the studio transferred ownership to Disney as part of its $71.3 billion Fox asset buy. (Buffy and Angel grad Drew Goddard was the first.) King brings yet another strong female voice to the studio at a time when new parent Disney is focused on regaining ABC’s perch as the No. 1 broadcast network among women under new network entertainment president Karey Burke. The latter exec, who was promoted from Freeform’s head of originals to replace Channing Dungey in November, has a long history with King after the duo collaborated on the cable network’s signature hit PLL, spinoffs Ravenswood and The Perfectionists and Famous in Love. In the past couple years, King has looked to branch out to broadcast, previously selling a drama to ABC back in 2017 with former PLL star Shay Mitchell attached. (It did not move forward.)
“I could not be more excited to join Jonnie, Terence and the 20th team,” King said. “They’ve embraced my voice with open arms and it’s a perfect time to create daring new shows for all platforms.”
PLL: The Perfectionists was originally developed in 2014 as a stand-alone series based on the book by original PLL author Sara Shepard. After Freeform wrapped Pretty Little Liars after seven seasons, the idea then became to merge The Perfectionists with the world of the flagship — with the latter having been based on a different Shepard book. The series stars original fan favorites Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parrish, who reprise their roles from the flagship. The show launched Wednesday on Freeform.
King is repped by WME and attorneys Kevin Yorn and Gregg Gellman.
King becomes the latest showrunner to land a rich overall deal, as the market for top talent continues to escalate given the emergence of multiple new streaming platforms as media behemoths like Disney look to compete with more established tech giants including Netflix and Amazon. Universal TV recently re-signed The Good Place creator Mike Schur to a five-year, nine-figure pact after losing Mindy Kaling to Warner Bros. TV (where she signed a six-year, eight-figure overall deal), while Fresh Off the Boat showrunner Nahnatchka Khan moved her overall deal from 20th TV to Universal TV.
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