Fox television executives have hooked a big fish: Prolific producer Warren Littlefield has agreed to bring his eponymous banner — the Littlefield Co. — to 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios.
Fox announced Friday that Littlefield, executive producer of “The Handmaid’s Tale” for Hulu and “Fargo” for FX, has signed an exclusive production deal with the Fox television studios.
The deal will move to Walt Disney Co. early next year when Disney wraps up its $71.3-billion purchase of much of Rupert Murdoch’s company. It replaces an earlier deal Littlefield Co. signed with Fox 21 with a more comprehensive arrangement that gives Fox rights to programming in development.
The move is significant and comes amid an exodus of key television showrunners to Netflix, Amazon Studios and Apple Inc. Streaming services have been writing huge checks to lure leading television writers and producers away from traditional broadcasters. Netflix, in particular, has been offering hundreds of millions of dollars to prominent producers.
Prolific producer Ryan Murphy (“American Horror Story” and “Feud”) left his longtime home at Fox early this year for a $300-million deal with Netflix. ABC television in 2017 said goodbye to its biggest rainmaker, Shonda Rhimes, the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” Her Netflix deal reportedly is worth more than $150 million. Another top ABC producer, Kenya Barris, creator of “black-ish,” in August shifted to Netflix for a three-year deal reportedly worth $100 million.
Traditional broadcasting executives have become increasingly anxious about the talent drain. Fox executives also have been trying to quell an uprising by showrunners, including Steve Levitan of “Modern Family,” who are refusing to do further work for Murdoch’s company because of Fox News’ coverage.
Littlefield, who ran NBC Entertainment during its “Must See TV” peak in the 1990s with “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “ER” and “The West Wing,” also is bringing his team, including key executives Ann Johnson and Graham Littlefield. The group plans to produce new projects for broadcast television, cable outlets and streaming platforms. The two Fox studios will have exclusive rights to Littlefield Co. projects.
“We at the Littlefield Co. are thrilled to be continuing our relationship with Fox, expanding with them through this exciting new chapter of their history,” Littlefield said in a statement.
Fox 21 Television President Bert Salke and 20th Century Fox Television’s president of creative affairs, Jonnie Davis, announced the deal. Earlier this year, the Littlefield Co. had signed a first-look deal with Fox 21 Television Studios.