io9 reported on Monday that a pilot for a tv series based on Jordan's series aired early Monday morning on FXX, only it might not be an authorized production, and it wasn't even made by that network.
The time slot had apparently been bought by Red Eagle Entertainment, a media company which owned the tv rights - or so Rick Selvage, CEO of Red Eagle Entertainment, claims. From the way he is described on io9, this pilot was produced and broadcast not as a teaser for the series but to secure the tv rights, which would otherwise have expired shortly.
"You probably know that a lot of pilots are put on the air at different times in different ways, and for different reasons," Selvage tells io9. As with "a lot of other properties, there's always an airdate that you need to air something by... and that was certainly part of it."
Basically Selvage has pulled the same trick which producer Bernd Eichinger pulled in 1994 when he was about to lose the rights to The Fantastic Four: produce a work which would at a minimum satisfy the contract requirements - but not necessarily satisfy the fans.
In the case of The Wheel of Time, that involved adapting the six-page prologue to The Eye Of The World, the first novel. Wired reports that shooting of the pilot was finished on 4 February - as in last Wednesday.
After having watched about 3 minutes of the show on Youtube, I would say that you can definitely the care and professional work which was invested in this production:
But wait, there's more.
While Selvage is under the impression that he has the TV rights, Robert Jordan's estate has a different opinion. The following statement was posted to the official Google+ fan page (and copied on Tor.com):
This morning brought startling news. A “pilot” for a Wheel of Time series, the "pilot" being called Winter Dragon, had appeared at 1:30 in the morning, East Coast time, on Fxx TV, a channel somewhere in the 700s (founded to concentrate on comedy, according to the Washington Post).
It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.
Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch.
I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.
I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.
It's not clear to this outsider who has the tv rights to that series, but I did find mentions that Red Eagle Entertainment had the rights since 2008. I can't say why nothing has come of that deal, but I do note that the Red Eagle website is nothing more than a placeholder with a single page containing a press release from 2009.
That is not exactly a convincing argument that this is a legit operation, although it does suggest that Red Eagle has even less money than the estate, so the inevitable legal battle will likely end in the estate's favor.