- Companies are scooping up major Hollywood players in deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars to bolster their original streaming content.
- Netflix landed “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy in an estimated $300 million deal, while WarnerMedia attracted J.J. Abrams, who will create content for its streaming competitor HBO Max.
- Former HBO CEO Richard Plepler is in talks to join Apple TV Plus, The Wall Street Journal first reported last week, which would give Apple’s streaming efforts a big boost.
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But as the streaming war accelerates, it’s not just nostalgic sitcoms attracting mega deals, but some of Hollywood’s most high-profile producers and executives, as well.
The latest potential example is Richard Plepler, the former HBO CEO who is in talks to join Apple TV Plus, multiple outlets reported last week. A deal “could be finalized within the next few weeks,” a person with knowledge of the talks told The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report the news.
Apple is a newcomer to original TV and movies, so it will need someone with Plepler’s experience if it wants to compete against the likes of Netflix and Disney, which debuted its own service, Disney Plus, last week and gained 10 million sign-ups a day after launching.
Netflix landed superstar producers Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes last year, and WarnerMedia nabbed J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company in September.
“The more crowded field has driven higher demand for content against a more limited supply of production and talent, resulting in cost inflation (particularly for marquee programs and show runners),” analysts at UBS wrote in a report distributed Tuesday.
Here’s a rundown of the top mega-deals to happen as the streaming war has intensified:
J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath — HBO Max (WarnerMedia)
What they’re known for: Bad Robot is the production company behind recent “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible,” and “Cloverfield” movies for Paramount Pictures
The husband-wife duo of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” director Abrams and McGrath are co-CEOs of the production company Bad Robot.
WarnerMedia, which is launching the streaming service HBO Max next year, landed Abrams and McGrath in September in a five-year deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Variety reported the deal was worth $500 million, while The Hollywood Reporter reported that it was worth “more in the line of $250 million.”
Bad Robot will develop movies and TV shows for WarnerMedia, including for HBO Max, but the company said it “will honor existing obligations to Paramount Pictures,” where Abrams has produced “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” movies.
Greg Berlanti — HBO Max (WarnerMedia)
What he’s known for: “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman” (The CW)
Berlanti is best known for executive producing or creating the shows of The CW network’s “Arrow-verse,” which includes multiple DC superhero series. They will be crossing over this winter in a television event called “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
Berlanti signed a contract extension last year through 2024 with Warner Bros. Television worth $400 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Berlanti will produce two other DC shows for Warner Media’s HBO Max: “Green Lantern” and “Strange Adventures.”
Ryan Murphy — Netflix
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What he’s known for: “Glee” (Fox), “American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story,” “Pose” (FX)
Murphy struck a five-year deal with Netflix last year worth as much as $300 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. At the Time 100 Summit in April, Murphy said that Netflix had greenlit 10 of his projects, including four TV shows, three movies, and three documentaries.
The first of his Netflix projects, the TV series “The Politician,” debuted in September to terrible critic reviews and has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. But it has a more generous audience score of 85%.
Murphy’s “Hollywood,” a limited series starring Darren Criss, debuts in May. Murphy has called it a “love letter to the Golden Age of Tinseltown.” He’s also developing a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” prequel series starring Sarah Paulson as the villainous Nurse Ratched.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — Netflix
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What they’re known for: “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
Benioff and Weiss wrapped up HBO’s hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones” this year to mixed results. As showrunners, the duo was met with backlash from some fans who were disappointed with the final season. The toxic fandom even pushed them to exit a planned “Star Wars” movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But still, “Game of Thrones” was one of the most successful shows of all time.
The pair struck a multiyear TV and movie deal with Netflix in August worth $200 million, according to THR.
Shonda Rhimes — Netflix
What she’s known for: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal” (ABC)
Rhimes signed a deal with Netflix last year worth $150 million, according to The New York Times.
She has plans for eight series for the streaming giant, including one about Anna Sorokin, the “SoHo Grifter,” who who scammed banks and businesses throughout the New York social scene for years by claiming to be a wealthy German heiress under the fake name Anna Delvey. She was convicted in May of stealing more than $200,000 and sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.
Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan — Amazon Prime Video
What they’re known for: “Westworld” (HBO)
Joy and Nolan created HBO’s sci-fi series “Westworld.” Nolan has also cowritten some of his brother Christopher Nolan’s movies, including “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Interstellar.” Joy served as an executive producer and writer on USA Network’s “Burn Notice.”
The duo signed a five-year deal with Amazon in April worth $150 million, according to Variety. They’ll develop original series for Prime Video through their production company Kilter Films, including “The Peripheral,” based on William Gibson’s 2014 sci-fi mystery novel.
Kenya Barris — Netflix
What he’s known for: “Black-ish,” “Mixed-ish” (ABC), “Grown-ish” (Freeform)
Barris, who created “Black-ish” and its spinoffs “Mixed-ish” and “Grown-ish,” signed a three-year exclusive deal with Netflix last year to produce original series. The deal was worth $100 million but has an option for two more years, according to Variety.
Barris had to exit a contract with ABC that ran through 2021 before departing for Netflix, according to Variety.
BONUS: Richard Plepler — Apple TV Plus
What he’s known for: Former CEO of HBO
Plepler resigned from his role of HBO CEO after AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia). Multiple outlets – including The Wall Street Journal, Deadline, and The Hollywood Reporter – reported last week that Plepler in talks to join Apple’s recently launched streaming service, Apple TV Plus, in an exclusive production deal to develop new original content through his new company RLP & Co.
Plepler, who led HBO through the “Game of Thrones” era, would give a huge boost to Apple’s streaming efforts. Apple TV Plus’ original shows, which premiered November 1 with the launch of the service, struggled out of the gate with poor critic reviews and lackluster audience demand. Plepler’s deal would likely be massive as Apple needs a big win to compete in the streaming war.
BONUS: Kevin Feige — Disney Plus
What he’s known for: Marvel Cinematic Universe
As the president of Marvel Studios, Feige has produced 23 hits in a row. He was recently promoted to chief creative officer of Marvel, in which he’ll oversee all aspects of the company’s creative vision, from movies to TV to comics.
The MCU is heading to TV on Disney Plus, as Feige will oversee seven TV shows that are currently in development for the streaming service. As Feige’s reach grows, TV shows that aren’t connected to the MCU are fading. Hulu’s “Runaways” will end with its upcoming third season and ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is concluding with its upcoming season seven.