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 kids' 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 whose voices were dubbed by American voice-over actors. Saban said new episodes, which will start airing in 2011, will be produced in a similar manner.
"Power Rangers" was one of the most popular shows on the cable channel Fox Family, a joint venture between Saban and News Corp. that was acquired by Walt Disney Co. in 2001 for $3.2 billion. The acquisition included rights to the show, which later transferred to smaller cable channel Jettix, now known as Disney XD, as its popularity faded and now airs on ABC stations at different times.
"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. "I think 'Power Rangers' can flourish and be more impactful than it has been for the past five years."
[Update, 4:35 p.m.: "The Power Rangers don’t fit with the Disney brand or with our long-term programming strategy," a company spokesman said in a statement.]
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," said Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami.
Zarghami added that although "Power Rangers" was somewhat controversial in the 1990s for its violence, she didn't think the show's campy martial arts would bother many parents today.
The acquisition is being done 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
Times staff writers Joe Flint and Dawn C. Chmielewski contributed to this report.
Photo: The Power Rangers. Credit: Saban Brands