How “rights” lead to a 17 year delay in the Wheel of Time?

Wheel of Time Coming to TV

It’s been almost two decades since “The Wheel of Time” adaptation was put into development.  It’s been almost three decades since the first novel in the 14-book series was written.  During the development time, the rights have switched hands multiple times, from NBC, Universal to Red Eagle Entertainment. The past two years have seen the most improvement now that Sony Entertainment has partnered with Red Eagle to bring “The Wheel of Time” to television sets.

The earliest attempt to bring the 14-book fantasy epic to television was in 2000, when NBC signed a deal with series author Robert Jordan.  Soon after, Robert Jordan stated he didn’t think anything would come from the deal, because the NBC executives who were behind the deal, left the network. Soon after another company approached Robert Jordan to acquire the rights, Red Eagle Entertainment.

Red Eagle acquired the exclusive worldwide production and distribution rights for “The Wheel of Time” in 2004.  Fans of the series looked forward with anticipation as Red Eagle announced big plans ranging from video games, to comics and movies.  Since then, fans of the world’s second best fantasy saga of all time have been met with one disappointment after another.

The first attempt for Red Eagle to capitalize on the rights of “The Wheel of Time” was a comic book series based on New Spring, a prequel novel for “The Wheel of Time”.  However, in 2006, less than a year after the announcement of the comic series, Red Eagle announced they would be discontinuing the series, a decision based on complications with the companies Red Eagle had contracted with.  A year later, Robert Jordan, in one of his last posts before his death, announced his displeasure over the promises Red Eagle Entertainment had made to his fans and showed remorse that he sold the rights to them.

In 2008, Universal acquired film rights for “The Wheel of Time”.  Red Eagle used the money from the seven-figure deal to exercise an option and retain the rights for “The Wheel of Time”.  At this time, Red Eagle once again promised fans a movie and several games.  In 2009, a deal was signed with EA games for distribution of a “Wheel of Time” game.  With a large name such as EA signed on, Red Eagle had cashed in on its promise to deliver something to the “Wheel of Time fans”.  Obsidian Games was brought on to develop the game.  However, several years later Obsidian decided to cancel the project and again, through no fault of Red Eagle, fans were disappointed.

In 2015, just before the rights were to revert back to Robert Jordan’s widow, Red Eagle aired a short pilot on FXX TV at 1:30 in the morning.  Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet, publicly attacked Red Eagle for the quality of the pilot and secretiveness with which they went about it.  Red Eagle sued Harriet, and it was settled out of court.

Earlier this year, Sony Pictures Television has announced that they are producing a TV Series based on the “Wheel of Time”.  Currently, Rafe Judkins has been hired on to handle the adaptation, the most promising step in the 17-year saga.  The ordeal that has kept fans waiting, since the first deal was signed in 2000, demonstrates the importance of intellectual property rights and the need for adequate representation.