MTV is looking for its own Game of Thrones.
The Viacom-owned cable network is teaming with Jon Favreau and Smallville duo Al Gough and Miles Millar to adapt Terry Brooks‘ international best-selling fantasy novels Shannara, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. From Sonar Entertainment, the development deal comes with a straight-to-series commitment, so should network brass like the script, the fantasy drama would bypass the traditional pilot stage.
The Shannara series first started in 1977 with The Sword of Shannara and encompasses multiple trilogies and a prequel, totaling 25 books, with Brooks most recently publishing Witch Wraith in July. Another three books are due to be published in 2014.
Shannara takes place thousands of years after the destruction of our civilization. The story centers on the Shannara family, whose descendants are empowered with ancient magic and whose adventures continuously reshape the future of the world. Should the project go to series, producers — including Brooks, Favreau, Gough, Millar and Dan Farah — plan to base the first season on The Elfstones of Shannara. The second title in the series, published in 1982, spent 16 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and is credited with cementing the series in the fantasy world. The series has more than 26 million copies in print in the U.S. alone, according to Random House imprint Del Rey, which has published the series since the start.
The Shannara books are estimated to be the highest-selling un-adapted fantasy book series in the world. Brooks is considered to be the second-highest-selling living fantasy author, trailing only Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling.
Favreau will direct and executive produce the project alongside Gough and Millar. The Smallville duo will write and executive produce if the project goes to series.
“I believe we have formed the perfect team to bring Shannara to life onscreen,” Brooks said. “The adaptation of these books is very important to me, and I believe we are on the right track in our endeavor to create an epic television series that both new and old fans of the books will love.”
Global developer, producer and distributor Sonar (Ring of Fire, Neverland, Alice) and Farah Films acquired the rights to Brooks’ fantasy series in 2012 with the plan to recruit a showrunner and director before shopping the project to networks.
“This collaboration with MTV, combined with the amazing creative talent attached to this project, including our existing relationship with Terry Brooks and Dan Farah of Farah Films, gives us tremendous confidence that we have a potential hit property with appeal to audiences worldwide,” said Sonar CEO Stewart Till. “This deal also reflects Sonar’s emerging strategy to become a leading supplier of groundbreaking series programming.”
Shannara reunites MTV programming president Susanne Daniels with Smallville‘s Gough and Millar. The WB Superman prequel series ran for 10 seasons and was developed by the former WB Network head of programming.
“I am thrilled to be working with the Smallville creators, Al and Miles, again along with the amazingly talented Jon Favreau,” Daniels said. “We feel that the Shannara novels are a perfect fit for MTV, as this type of fantasy genre has continuously proved to resonate with our audience.”
This marks the first time Shannara has been readied for TV. On the feature side, Warner Bros. picked up rights to the Shannara universe in 2007 for a feature film. The studio’s rights expired in 2010.
For MTV, Shannara comes as the cable network has continued to find success with scripted supernatural drama Teen Wolf, based on the 1980s Michael J. Fox feature film. The network in October renewed the drama from showrunner Jeff Davis for a fourth season and picked up a companion post-episode talk show.
The drama comes as Daniels has increased the amount of scripted programming on the network. In her first year on the job, she picked up two new comedies — Happyland and Faking It — to go with the fourth season of Awkward and has drama pilots Scream — based on the Kevin Williamson franchise — as well as Finding Carter and Jason Blum‘s Eye Candy also in the mix.
Genre fare continues to be a draw on both cable and broadcast networks. Game of Thrones ranks as HBO’s second-most-watched drama in history (trailing only The Sopranos) and The Walking Dead is TV’s No. 1 scripted drama among adults 18-49.
Favreau, an executive producer on NBC’s post-apocalyptic drama Revolution, is repped by CAA and Jackoway Tyerman; Gough and Miller are also with CAA. Brooks is with Janklow and Nesbit Associates.