Tyler Perry, the writer, director, producer, playwright and actor, has signed a long-term deal with Viacom that could help the fortunes of that embattled media conglomerate.
Mr. Perry, best known for his “Madea” movie series, has agreed to produce 90 episodes annually of original drama and comedy series for BET and other Viacom networks. Viacom will also have exclusive distribution rights to Mr. Perry’s short-form video content, and its Paramount Pictures group will have “first-look” rights on his feature-film concepts.
The film deal starts immediately, but the TV and video components won’t begin until 2019, when Mr. Perry’s agreement with OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network expires. The Viacom deal is to run through 2024.
Viacom suffered a particularly bruising 2016: A proposed merger with CBS was cast aside, and a fight for control of the company led to the ouster of its longtime chief executive Philippe Dauman. Shari E. Redstone, the daughter of the media mogul Sumner M. Redstone, emerged triumphant from the battles to become vice chairwoman of Viacom’s board of directors and vice chairwoman of the board at CBS. This year a new chief executive, Robert M. Bakish, outlined a plan to embrace the company’s flagship brands, including BET. The deal with Mr. Perry is a way to capitalize on the star power he brought to OWN.
“Tyler is a prolific creative force, and I’m excited that this collaboration will bring his signature humor and powerful storytelling to Viacom’s audiences while further cementing BET’s position as the leading home for bold, relevant African-American programming and scripted content,” Mr. Bakish said in a statement.
Richard Greenfield, a media analyst with BTIG Research, said, “This is a sign that Shari Redstone and Bob Bakish are here to compete.”
“For too many years,” he added, “Viacom had underinvested, let their networks lose the edges they’ve had historically and let upstarts like OWN cut into their market share.”
Viacom’s gain will be OWN’s loss. Mr. Perry’s appeal, and his production of scripted shows like “The Have and Have Nots” and “If Loving You Is Wrong,” has helped OWN find its footing.
A statement from OWN cautioned that it has an exclusive TV production deal with Tyler Perry that runs through May of 2019, with series airing on the network through 2020. It also mentioned the success of its other original scripted material, like “Queen Sugar” and “Greenleaf.”
Mr. Greenfield noted that “the cable media industry is challenged in the long term, so this deal is not going to make cable networks great again.” However, he said that the recent hiring of Brian Robbins, a longtime movie and TV producer and director who is overseeing a new feature-film venture for the company, was a sign of life at Viacom and might have appealed to Mr. Perry.
A representative for Mr. Perry said he was unavailable for comment.
SOURCE: The New York Times – Sophie Haigney