By Benjamin Mullin
Viacom Inc. has sunk its claws into another hit franchise.
The entertainment company said on Tuesday it has reached an agreement to acquire Paws Inc., the holding company that owns the rights to the lasagna-loving cartoon cat Garfield. Financial terms of the transaction weren't disclosed.
The deal will allow Viacom to create new shows and spinoffs based on the characters in the "Garfield" comic strip and license the wise-cracking feline's likeness to toymakers around the world. Viacom will also acquire the rights to U.S. Acres, another Paws, Inc. franchise.
Viacom's acquisition of Garfield dovetails with the company's strategy of buying up well-known intellectual property as fodder for programming it can show on its own cable networks and sell to streaming services such as those offered by Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Jim Davis, creator of the "Garfield," syndicated comic strip, will continue writing and drawing the strip as the owner of a new company, Funny LLC. The deal doesn't include rights to existing Garfield films.
Garfield is the latest popular cartoon franchise acquired by Viacom. In 2009, the company bought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, adapting the talking turtles into two movies distributed by its Paramount film studio in subsequent years.
The "Garfield" comic strip has been syndicated in newspapers nationally since 1978, and the Garfield character has appeared in TV shows and movies and starred in shows adapted for the stage.
Viacom said it plans for Garfield to star in an animated TV series on its kids-focused Nickelodeon cable network, and the company will license the character through its Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products unit. Viacom is also planning to use Garfield in Nickelodeon-branded hotels, staged shows, theme parks and other experiences.
Viacom Inc. is in talks to merge with its sister company, CBS Corp., and the two companies recently reached a working agreement on which executives will take major roles at the combined company. The timing of that deal is uncertain.
The acquisition of Paws, Inc. is expected to close in the upcoming weeks, Viacom said.
Write to Benjamin Mullin at Benjamin.Mullin@wsj.com