Seth MacFarlane, one of television’s most successful producers, is singing a new tune.
The creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad!,” “Ted” and “The Orville” is leaving his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television, which bet on MacFarlane when he was just a recent college graduate trying his hand at animation.
On Friday, NBCUniversal said it was going into business with MacFarlane with a multiyear production deal for new TV shows. MacFarlane, however, will be free to shop film projects to other studios while his signature TV show “Family Guy” will continue to run on Fox.
Financial terms were not disclosed. However, the NBCUniversal deal is valued at slightly less than $200 million, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. Incentives were built into the contract that could boost that amount.
The deal comes less than a year after Walt Disney Co. took control of the Fox movie and television studios, and as NBCUniversal tries to bolster its programming for the NBC broadcast network, its cable channels and an ad-supported streaming service called Peacock that debuts in April.
MacFarlane, 46, who has branched out by recording music and as the star of his productions, becomes the latest top TV show producer to sign a lucrative deal. Television and film studios have been offering generous long-term deals to secure the services of A-listers in an effort to build programming arsenals for the industry’s streaming wars.
Last fall, WarnerMedia wooed J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company with a five-year, $500-million deal. In 2018, prominent producer Greg Berlanti (“Supergirl” and “Arrow”) signed a $400-million TV pact with Warner Bros. That same year, Netflix lured Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story” and “Feud”) with a deal valued at $300 million. Murphy had been 20th Century Fox Television’s most prolific producer, dealing that studio a blow as it prepared for a sale to Disney.
In addition, Jordan Peele (“Get Out” and “Us”) signed a TV deal with Amazon Studios, and Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”) in 2017 made headlines when she moved to Netflix from her longtime home at ABC.
“One of my oldest memories from Fox is of a young Seth MacFarlane hanging out in the halls of the studio,” said Dana Walden, chair of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. “He entertained all of us with his incredible wit and hilarious observations. He is a brilliant artist and a great friend; and, there is no one we root for more than him.... I feel lucky to be continuing an extraordinary partnership.”
In recent years, MacFarlane has been less involved in the production of his mega-hit, “Family Guy,” although he still voices several of the characters. His latest pet project is the science fiction series “The Orville,” which moved last year from Fox to Hulu.
In the film business, he achieved success in collaboration with Universal Pictures with his break-out animated bear comedy, “Ted,” which was released in 2012.
MacFarlane also is one of Hollywood’s major political donors and a big contributor to the Democratic Party.