If you were watching FXX at 1:30AM ET last night and are a fan of Robert Jordan’s 10,000-page fantasy epic, The Wheel of Time, you were treated to an unusual surprise: the half-hour pilot of The Wheel of Time: Winter Dragon. Furthermore, you weren’t alone; in a statement released earlier today by Jordan’s editor and widow, Harriet McDougal, the pilot that aired was produced without any knowledge or cooperation from either her or Jordan’s estate.
McDougal explains that "Bandersnatch [Jordan's estate] has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights [to The Wheel of Time] to them until this Wednesday, February 11th — at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch."
the pilot that aired last night happened without involvement of jordan's estate
It appears Universal had been working with Red Eagle Entertainment to bring the series to the screen when they received the rights in 2008. However, the terms of Universal's contract with Jordan's estate and their involvement with Red Eagle Entertainment's pilot still remain unclear. Rick Selvage, the CEO of Red Eagle Entertainment, stated in an interview with io9 that the timing of the pilot was a factor in its sudden airing, and that it should be viewed as "a pilot for a high-budget production television series," with more announcements coming soon.
The Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy series written by Robert Jordan and later concluded by author Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. It spans over 14 books and details the story of Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn. The pilot itself portrays the events of the prologue to the first book, The Eye of the World, depicting events and characters from hundreds of years before the series is set.
With the massive popularity of Game of Thrones, itself famously adapted from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, it’s easy to see why Red Eagle Entertainment would want to attempt to keep their rights to a similar epic fantasy series in an attempt to produce a TV series farther down the road. It's a shame it had to have been done in such a clandestine manner.