Seth MacFarlane is on the move.Following a decades-long relationship with 20th Century Fox Television, the Family Guy mastermind has signed a rich, nine-figure overall deal with NBCUniversal Content Studios.
Sources say MacFarlane and his Fuzzy Door Productions banner will create and develop new TV projects for across the media giant’s portfolio, working with cable- and streaming-focused Universal Content Productions as well as broadcast-leaning Universal Television in the division fronted by Bonnie Hammer. The deal, per sources, is for five years and a total of $200 million. Sources say the deal includes a signing bonus as well as overhead for his Fuzzy Door company. This is the first sizable talent deal since NBCU’s studios were aligned under Hammer. I
n addition to continuing his work on current shows like Family Guy, MacFarlane is said to be excited to create new projects for across the NBCU fold, including for basic cabler Syfy. Sources say he’s interested in starring in and producing musicals, political dramas and anthologies around historic events in addition to working on new animated projects. He already has multiple projects in the works for NBCU — though none of them are animated (yet).
The pact also keeps MacFarlane a free agent when it comes to film work, meaning he’s able to write, act, produce and direct for any studio as features remain a top priority for his Fuzzy Door banner. The company’s feature banner has brought in grosses topping $800 million thanks to Ted and its sequel as well as A Million Ways to Die in the West. “Seth’s voice resonates across multiple demographics and mediums. We all admire his ability to create audacious commentary with bold, yet relatable, humor and I look forward to working with him behind and in front of the camera,” said Hammer, who serves as chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios. Added NBCU Content Studios vice chairman George Cheeks: “NBCUniversal is known for creating some of the most talked-about television and we know Seth’s fearless voice will continue this storied legacy.”
MacFarlane has been without an overall deal since summer 2019, when his most recent pact with the now Disney-owned 20th TV expired. The actor, writer, showrunner and voiceover veteran wanted to focus first on acting — he’s fresh off Showtime’s The Loudest Voice in the Room and next has season three of Fox-turned Hulu dramedy The Orville — before turning his attention to his overall deal. Sources say MacFarlane met with the usual suspects around town — including Netflix, Amazon and Disney — and had been seeking a deal worth $40 million per year to start. MacFarlane has quietly spent the past five to six months taking meetings in a courting process that one source compared to feeling “like a school tour.” “All of us at UCP are huge fans of Seth’s work in television and film,” said UCP president Dawn Olmstead, who played a key role in the deal.
“In my household, where the ages range from 11 to 52, Seth falls somewhere between an icon and a god. Whether it’s comedy, drama, science fiction, animation or musicals, his virtuoso knows no boundaries. This, combined with our shared desire to play in every sandbox that the industry has to offer, is why I believe we can be a great home for all of his creative pursuits. Plus, working with him just made me much cooler to my kids.” Disney, sources say, bowed out after hearing MacFarlane’s initial $40 million annual figure and rumblings that the Family Guy and American Dad creator did not want to do another animated show. It’s unclear if animation will be a priority for MacFarlane at NBCUniversal. (Universal Television currently has one animated series on the air, Fox’s Amy Poehler-produced Duncanville.) MacFarlane’s move to NBCUniversal ends a decades-long relationship the prolific producer had with 20th TV and former studio (and Fox) chief Dana Walden. The two, who have been colleagues and friends for the past decade-plus, are said to have met during MacFarlane’s courting process with Disney, where Walden now serves as chairwoman of Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment.
“I am extremely honored to be partnering with Dawn Olmstead and the entire UCP team,” MacFarlane said. “My relationship with Universal predates this new chapter, and if my experience producing television with UCP is anything like the experience I’ve had producing films with the company, it will be an exciting and creatively fulfilling one for me and for Fuzzy Door. I’m especially inspired by all of the opportunities that NBCUniversal Content Studios has to offer with George and Bonnie at the helm. I will remain indebted to my good friend Dana Walden and the team at 20th for their collaborative partnership over the years, and I look forward to our continued work together on Family Guy, American Dad and The Orville.” MacFarlane is the latest high-profile showrunner to depart 20th TV and Disney after the overall deals space exploded.
Shonda Rhimes (ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy) left her longtime home at ABC Studios for a $100 million Netflix deal. Ryan Murphy (FX’s American Crime Story) departed 20th TV and also went to Netflix in a pact worth an estimated $300 million.
Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP; Fox
Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd