‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’: Star’s Mom Paid a Surprising Amount for the Series’ Rights

Netflix viewers have walked down the corridors of Sabrina Spellman’s hellish abode and skipped through Greendale’s haunted forest thanks to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

But before that, Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a lighthearted sitcom that aired on ABC and WB from 1996 to 2003. Melissa Joan Hart was the first on-screen iteration of the character and her aunts were played by Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick.

Some fans are familiar with both versions of the series, but years ago, its television debut was placed in the hands of Hart’s mother.

'Sabrina the Teenage Witch'
‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ with Caroline Rhea, Melissa Joan Hart, Beth Broderick, Salem the cat | Bob D’Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ has a storied history

Many fans are aware that Sabrina is part of the Archie comics universe and at times, Greendale drama has spilled over to Riverdale. In the live-action sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the young teen lives in a fictional Boston suburb and unlike Netflix’s CAOS, Salem is not a demon familiar.

Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina had plenty of misadventures while trying to learn about her magical powers — a discovery she made at age 16. She traveled in between witchy realms, navigated friendships, dealt with boyfriends, and delved into her family’s history.

After a few seasons, an animated Sabrina series was introduced with Hart voicing the aunts and her younger sister playing Sabrina. It followed a 1970 cartoon and preceded a CGI incarnation on the Hub Network that debuted in 2013.

During Hart’s reign as Sabrina, her family’s production company also released three Sabrina the Teenage Witch television movies for ABC.

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Melissa Joan Hart’s mom bought the rights for ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’

Paula Hart, Melissa Joan Hart’s mom, served as an executive producer for the Sabrina sitcom, a series she brought to the table. Melissa Joan appeared on Jaleel White’s Ever After podcast and revealed her mother bought the rights for the character for a bargain. “She found the comic book from Archie,” Hart said.

“She went to them, and basically they said, ‘Yeah, you can take it. Give us a dollar and we’ll do the exchange.’ And the dollar was the minimum you had to give to just say there was a money exchange and rights given. And we had the rights for six months. She brought it to Viacom; they sold it to Showtime as a movie,” she shared.

Hart explained their early intentions were to do a film first, but during production, her mother kept thinking it would be a great series. She spliced a trailer together from editing room footage, flew out to Los Angeles, and pitched the Sabrina show to several networks.

Multiple offers came in, and Hart’s mom made the series happen. They ultimately chose ABC because of the time slot. Sabrina the Teenage Witch premiered to 17 million viewers on its first night.

Hart’s mother is behind other projects

In addition to creating a Sabrina-centered TV franchise, the elder Hart is responsible for Melissa & Joey and a host of Lifetime TV movies. She’s produced Broadcasting Christmas, Christmas Reservations, Feliz NaviDad, Dear Christmas, and more.

Hart credits her mother for teaching her how to be a savvy businesswoman and they continue to work together to this day.