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History’s longest-running scripted original will continue with a new series — but on Netflix.
The streaming giant on Tuesday announced it has handed out a straight-to-series order for the drama Vikings: Valhalla, a continuation of creator Michael Hirst’s show Vikings. Netflix has picked up a whopping 24 episodes of the series. It’s unclear if those will be split into two, 12-episode seasons or air as a super-sized one.
Vikings: Valhalla picks up 100 years after the History series and dramatizes the adventures of the most famous Vikings who ever lived — Leif Erikson, Freydis, Harald Harada and the Norman King William the Conqueror (also a Viking descendant). These men and women will blaze new paths as they fight for survival in an ever-changing and evolving Europe.
Hirst hand-picked Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Liberator) to pen the script and serve as showrunner on Vikings: Valhalla. Hirst, Stuart and Morgan O’Sullivan (Vikings) are all executive producing the series. The project hails from MGM TV, where Hirst is under an overall deal. Much of History’s Vikings team will return across multiple departments, with production also going back to Ireland. The sequel series had been originally in the works at History as of January when news broke that Vikings would be ending with its sixth season.
Vikings was History’s first scripted original series (and the first for the revived MGM TV banner). The series is in the midst of airing the first half of its sixth and final season, which will conclude in 2020. The network continues to remain in the scripted space with Project Blue Book and Knightfall. Sources say History is happy with the creative for the final season of Vikings and feels that the show comes to a proper ending on its network. The Hearst- and Disney-owned basic cabler has a robust scripted development pipeline and, given the high costs associated with a genre drama like Vikings, opted instead to allocate both its financial resources and limited shelf space to a new series.
“I am beyond excited that we are announcing the continuation of our Vikings saga,” Hirst said in a statement. “I know that the millions of our fans across the globe will be thrilled by the belief being shown in our show by MGM and Netflix. Jeb Stuart, a truly wonderful writer, will bring new storylines and a powerful visceral vision to stories about some of the most famous Vikings known to history.”
For MGM TV, Vikings: Valhalla is the studio’s latest foray and joins a roster of scripted originals including Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral and Epix’s Perpetual Grace, LTD. That the series is going to Netflix instead of the MGM-owned premium cable network Epix should be considered a sign of how important being a so-called “arms dealer” of content is to the company. Most — but not all — of Epix’s scripted series are produced in-house by MGM TV.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Michael, Morgan, Jeb and Netflix on the next chapter in the incredible Vikings universe,” said Steve Stark, MGM’s president of TV production and development. “Valhalla has been a labor of love for everyone involved and as we look ahead to the continuation of this great saga, we are excited to know that fans the world over will have the opportunity to continue with the series on its new home at Netflix.”
The move to Netflix comes as a bit of a surprise, especially considering Hulu has streaming rights to the flagship History show. Still, the series comes with a built-in fan base at a time when Netflix continues to spend big as it looks to compete with new entrants in the streaming space including Disney+, Apple TV+ and the forthcoming HBO Max and Peacock, as well as stalwarts Amazon and Hulu, among other niche services.
Said Channing Dungey, vp originals at Netflix, “Vikings: Valhalla promises to be everything that fans love about the franchise: heart-pounding, unstoppable action rooted in rich characters and dramatic storytelling that shines the light on family, loyalty and power. We are thrilled to bring the next iteration of the Vikings saga to life with Michael Hirst, Jeb Stuart, Morgan O’Sullivan and MGM Television.”