Despite becoming one of the most-watched television shows on the planet, Baywatch didn’t have the most successful start. Airing the first season in 1989, the show came across a number of problems from low ratings in the US to a production budget they couldn’t meet.
“We just didn't have the money. It was a big show. We had people in the water, extras on the beach — it was the biggest thing I had ever seen,” said Billy Warlock on the show's difficulty producing the first season.
Shortly after the series cancelation had been announced by NBC, a small corporation known as Fremantle had reached out asking for new episodes of Baywatch. Fremantle had been in charge of the European distribution of the series where it had recieved high ratings.
Baywatch series creator Douglas Schwartz was ready to decline the offer until he received advice from his father, Sherwood Schwartz, who was the creator of The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island.
“Doug, this is the golden opportunity that you will probably never have again. Baywatch can be your Brady Bunch. Go and buy back your rights. See if you can put it into first-run syndication, because you have something the other shows don't have — a hit show in foreign television,” Sherwood said to his son on acquiring the rights back to Baywatch.
Douglas Schwartz along with fellow co-creator Michael Berk met with Grant Tinker, owner of Grant Tinker-Gannett Entertainment (GTG) and Baywatch. GTG was in the middle of shutting down in 1990 after the first season had aired. Not thinking they could take the show far, Grant Tinker agreed to sell his right to Baywatch for just $10.
"He laughed and accepted it. If we weren’t successful at the end of that year, they got Baywatch back. If we were successful, they got $5,000 an episode," said Schwartz on the $10 deal.
Berk and Schwartz were able to make their $10 deal into 11 seasons. With new episodes available, Fremantle signed on eagerly for distribution rights for $400,000 per episode. Knowing how popular the series was around the world they were able to bring Baywatch to TV screens in 145 countries and make it the most popular show in the world.
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