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Haim Saban buys back 'Power Rangers'

The media mogul, who launched the hit show in the 1990s, pays a reported $100 million to regain control of it from Walt Disney Co.

May 13, 2010|By Ben Fritz

One of the most popular — and reviled — icons of 1990s children's television is back in the hands of the man who launched it.

Media mogul Haim Saban has bought back the rights to "Power Rangers," the hit television show that fueled his dominance of children's television in the 1990s, from Walt Disney Co., which took control of the property in 2001.

Saban has also signed a deal with Nickelodeon, Disney's primary rival in the children's TV business, to air 20 new episodes of "Power Rangers" that he will produce, along with a catalog of more than 700 episodes.

The deal is worth about $100 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. Saban declined to comment on the price.

Originally known as "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," the low-budget series debuted in 1993 and consisted primarily of recycled footage from Japan of monsters battling teenage superheroes with many voices dubbed by American actors.

"Power Rangers" was one of the most popular shows on the cable channel Fox Family, a joint venture of Saban and News Corp. that was acquired by Disney for $3.2 billion. The acquisition included rights to the show, but as its popularity faded Disney moved it to the smaller cable channel Jetix, now known as Disney XD, and most recently to local ABC stations on weekends.

"I think this property has significant legs going forward if it's in an environment where it is nurtured and supported as opposed to being part of a huge portfolio," Saban said. " 'Power Rangers' can flourish and be more impactful than it has been for the past five years."

A Disney spokesman said the show no longer fits with the company's brand or programming strategy.

For Nickelodeon, the "Power Rangers" deal is part of a push to air more programming that appeals to young boys. The Viacom Inc.-owned network recently made a similar deal to relaunch the popular 1980s cartoon "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

"This fits in nicely as we are doing more things specifically for boys, and we are excited to add proven properties to our original slate," Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami said.

Although "Power Rangers" was somewhat controversial in the 1990s for its violence, she said she didn't think the show's campy martial arts would bother many parents today.

The acquisition is being made under the auspices of Saban Brands, a new company backed by $500 million of the media mogul's money with the goal of acquiring entertainment and consumer "brands."

Saban said the company is in negotiations to buy three other brands. He declined to identify them but said that, unlike "Power Rangers," they are not aimed at children.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

Times staff writers Joe Flint and Dawn C. Chmielewski contributed to this report.

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