Shonda Rhimes heads to Netflix

Shonda Rhimes at Scandal’s 100th episode party. (ABC/Todd Warwychuk)

The former south suburban University Park resident scores deal with SVOD service

Talk about extracting quick revenge.

Last week, Disney announced come 2019, it was pulling its movies off of Netflix to start its own streaming service. The news sent both stocks descending on Wall Street.

On Sunday night, Netflix decided to raid the Mouse House and nab Shonda Rhimes and sign her to a rich development deal. The creator of hit ABC series Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, and Scandal will now create new projects for Netflix in a new multi-year pact. The move ends Rhimes’ tenure with ABC Studios/Touchtone Television after fifteen years.

The current series mentioned above remain on Disney-owned ABC. Grey’s Anatomy – Rhimes’ first series, is entering its 14th season this fall and remains a sturdy player for the network, performing well opposite CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Meanwhile, Scandal is wrapping it up after this season, its seventh.

“Shondaland’s [Rhimes’ production company] move to Netflix is the result of a shared plan Ted Sarandos and I built based on my vision for myself as a storyteller and for the evolution of my company,” said Rhimes, as told by Broadcasting & Cable. “Ted provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix. He understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation.”

The move comes as Netflix is upping the ante and the pot – when it comes to landing talent. Last week, Netflix announced it signed David Letterman to do an interview series, set to debut next year and acquired comics book publisher Millarworld so it can develop more television series.

The Rhimes move also raises the question of just how much the streaming services are willing to pay for talent. The scenario could lead to a bidding war for services at a time when many media companies – especially those connected with the broadcast networks – are concerned about the bottom line. This reminds yours truly of radio’s talent wars during the 1990s and early 2000s as talent such as Howard Stern made out like bandits, signing deals with Infinity Broadcasting (now CBS Radio). The bubble burst when radio’s profit margins shrunk. Today, those kind of lucrative deals in radio and television are in the rearview mirror.

But somehow, Netflix and Amazon always have money to print in what seems like a bottomless pit. But winter may be coming soon than expected for the streaming giants. The interesting thing about the Rhimes deal is, the broadcast and cable networks are starting to look like minor-league farm teams compared to their streaming counterparts.

 

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