The concept was originally created in 1982 by Johnny C. Ferraro and Dan Carr. Carr gathered the Gladiators and hosted the show, and Ferraro financed and produced the original competition at Erie Tech High School in Erie, Pennsylvania so Ferraro could have the event on film as to shop the new creation. In 1983 Ferraro financed, developed, and packaged the American Gladiators as a movie project. In 1984 Carr sold his interest in a literary purchase to Flor-Jon Films. Ferraro had been the main driving force behind the American Gladiators brand since 1982. In 1987, Flor-Jon Films then licensed the unscripted rights to The Samuel Goldwyn Company (now part of MGM). Ferraro is the sole creator of the 1994 kids’ version of the series, Gladiators 2000.
Flor-Jon Films, Inc and the Samuel Goldwyn Co in 1993 granted a license to Chariot Entertainment in an effort to launch a live American Gladiators show on the Las Vegas Strip, but the president of Chariot became mired in a securities fraud prosecution, through no fault of Flor-Jon Films or The Samuel Goldwyn Co, and the live show went unrealized. Episodes from the original series were played on ESPN Classic from 2007 to 2009. Several episodes are available for download on Apple’s iTunes Service. The streaming service Pluto TV, has all episodes on demand as well as a live channel showing reruns from all 7 seasons, in the United States.
MGM Television, the successor company to the Samuel Goldwyn Company, during the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike, sold to NBC a prime-time revival that was closer to the British version than the American, with hosts Hulk Hogan and Lalia Ali, and Van Earl Wright the play-by-play voice. That version lasted two seasons.
In August 2018, MGM Television, with Ferraro and actors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, announced plans to bring American Gladiators back again for the 2019–20 season, the 30th anniversary of the franchise’s television debut.