Alex Kurtzman, the top producer on CBS Studios’ roster and architect of the studio’s Star Trek universe, has closed a massive new nine-figure overall deal there for his Secret Hideout banner. No financial terms are being disclosed but I hear the pact is in the $150 million range, putting Kurtzman in the very top tier of television writer-producers.
The agreement will keep Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout at CBS Studios through 2026, giving the studio exclusive rights to the company’s projects for all platforms, including a series adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates.” Additionally, Kurtzman will remain at the helm of the growing Star Trek franchise for the next six years. Heather Kadin will continue to lead the Secret Hideout content team, along with SVP Aaron Baiers and director of development Robyn Johnson. Under the new deal, Secret Hideout will expand its ranks with additional executive hires.
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This is the second consecutive time CBS Studios has stepped up to re-up Kurtzman with two years left on his deal. The prolific writer-producer-director launched Secret Hideout in 2016 with a four-year overall deal at CBS Studios and Kadin and Baiers as his top executives. Two years later, he signed a new five-year overall deal with the studio — at the time valued at around $25 million — that put him in charge of expanding the Star Trek franchise. Back then, there was one Star Trek series, Discovery. Three years later, Kurtzman and his team have grown the Star Trek franchise to five live-action and animated series for Paramount . The company also recently produced The Comey Rule and has the upcoming series The Man Who Fell to Earth.
“Extending our valuable partnership with the brilliant Alex Kurtzman and Secret Hideout has been a top priority for CBS and Paramount ,” said George Cheeks, President and CEO of CBS. “Alex’s vision and leadership of the Star Trek franchise and his ability to create artistic and commercial series across all platforms put him in a special class of creative talent”
The much higher value of the new six-year deal for Kurtzman and Secret Hideout than their previous one reflects a far more competitive talent marketplace. Overall deals for prolific top showrunners have gone up dramatically in the last few years, driven by streamers’ aggressive pursuit of A-list creators. Traditional studios have had to stepped up to secure their key producers, which CBS Studios has done with new overall deals for Kurtzman and fellow prolific creators Robert and Michelle King.
The pay increase also recognizes the success Kurtzman and Secret Hideout have had at the studio, making this an easy bet.
“Alex and Secret Hideout have been extraordinary partners who, through their prolific output of high-quality shows, have allowed our studio to grow exponentially,” said David Stapf, President, CBS Studios. “Alex’s vision and breadth of interest is unmatched as he and his team have re-ignited the Star Trek franchise with five (and counting) brilliantly unique series, while at the same time creating long-running hit series for both the Network and premium spaces.”
Kurtzman’s relationship with CBS Studios dates back more than a decade; he co-created and executive produced the studio’s Hawaii Five-0 reboot, which ran on CBS for ten seasons.
“CBS Studios has been my home for over a decade because the incomparable David Stapf always finds a way to demonstrate his decency and creative passion, not just for the work we do, but for the many people who do it,” Kurtzman said. “In David Nevins, I’ve found a rare breed executive with auteur taste and the guts to take chances, who’s encouraged us to create premium streaming and cable that pushes boundaries. And over the last year, I’ve had the extraordinary privilege of being eyewitness to the steady leadership George Cheeks has brought to CBS.”
The Star Trek universe built by Kurtzman and Secret Hideout consists of Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, the upcoming Star Trek: Prodigy, in partnership with Nickelodeon, and for 2022, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, featuring the characters Pike, Spock and Number One. In addition, Secret Hideout is in development on a Star Trek project based on “Section 31,” with Michelle Yeoh attached to star.
Beyond television, the Star Trek’s universe also includes digital content across podcasts, websites and social content, as well as global consumer products in gaming, publishing, collectibles, toys, apparel, collaborations and more across all retail channels. Kurtzman will continue to work across ViacomCBS divisions to expand all ancillary Trek products and will hire a franchise manager to report to him.
The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates is based on King’s short story about a woman receiving a call from her dead husband. Jessica Mecklenburg is writing the adaptation. Secret Hideout’s development slate also include previously announced Blackbird: Lena Horne and America, based on the life of Lena Horne, from Kurtzman’s frequent collaborator and writing partner, Home’s granddaughter Jenny Lumet. It is set at Showtime where the company is also developing Scarface and the Untouchable, written by Ben Jacoby. At Showtime, Kurtzman also executive produces Kavalier and Clay, a limited series with a production commitment based on Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
Additionally, Secret Hideout has optioned multiple books, including The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford. The company is repped by CAA and attorney Michael Gendler.