Netflix Lures Shonda Rhimes Away From ABC Studios

Shonda Rhimes

Netflix has signed Shonda Rhimes to a multi-year production deal, ending a 15-year relationship with ABC Studios that yielded hits from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Scandal.”

Her shingle, Shondaland, will begin producing new series for Netflix while she continues to stay involved in her current broadcast series. Executive producer Betsy Beers will also come to Netflix with Rhimes, one of the most successful TV producers of the past decade.

“Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer, Netflix, in a statement. “Her work is gripping, inventive, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, taboo-breaking television at its best. I’ve gotten the chance to know Shonda and she’s a true Netflixer at heart — she loves TV and films, she cares passionately about her work, and she delivers for her audience. We’re so excited to welcome her to Netflix.”

Rhimes has been a consistent supplier of successful dramas for ABC, including most recently “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Scandal.” Her first series for ABC, medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” was a home run out of the gate and is heading in to its 14th season this fall. A “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff is also in the works.

Netflix is familiar with the Shondaland milieu. The streaming service has long carried older episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “HTGAWM” in the U.S., and in select markets around the world.

The Rhimes pact reflects Netflix’s increasing interest in producing original series the company can own, as well as the arms race continuing to escalate between not only the streaming service and TV networks, but other subscriber VOD options like Amazon Prime and Hulu. Earlier this week, Amazon signed on another proven hitmaker, Robert Kirkman, creator of AMC’s megahit “The Walking Dead.”

Netflix has been a whirlwind of activity as of late, signing filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen to a deal for a series, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” The company also just made its first acquisition, Millarworld, which will yield intellectual property from a roster of comics that have yielded movies in the past from “Kickass” to the “Kingsman” franchise.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed Rhimes was earning an estimated $10 million a year under her previous ABC Studios pact. Netflix undoubtedly is paying a premium to Rhimes and in overhead for Shondaland to bring her into the fold under the exclusive deal. The complicated deal is believed to include innovative backend profit definitions for Rhimes to accommodate for the lack of syndication opportunities for programs produced for Netflix’s global platform. The deal was hammered out by Rhimes’ longtime reps at ICM Partners and attorney Michael Gendler.

The deal has been in the works for months. Rhimes’ existing pact with ABC Studios had been set to expire in June 2018. It’s understood that Rhimes let the studio know some time ago that she intended to move on after the deal ended — not to a direct broadcast competitor but to a new chapter of her career. At that point, discussions ensued to allow Rhimes an early exit from the deal.

The Shondaland operation is expected to remain based out of Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood, where “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” are shot.

“Shondaland’s 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 in a statement. “Ted provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix.”

“I am a huge fan of the talented team and amazing programming at Netflix,” said Beers. “The ability to create content for our new partners is an exciting challenge. I am grateful to everyone at ABC for their continued support and I look forward to beginning this next chapter at Netflix.”

The network and studio arms of ABC issued statements thanking Rhimes for her work for the Disney-owned TV properties, and assuring that the “TGIT” lineup is to continue airing. ” I’m proud to have given a home to what have become some of the most celebrated and talked about shows on television,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey. “With the launch of a new season upon us, fans can rest assured that TGIT remains intact and will be as buzzed about as ever.”

A good deal of Rhimes-related series are still in the pipeline at ABC Studios, which also has numerous overall deals with showrunners associated with her shows. Another Shondaland series, “For the People,” is expected to bow in the midseason. Rhimes is committed to maintaining her involvement in the “TGIT” series. She’s taking a hands-on role in the final season of “Scandal.” She hammered out the roadmap for the Washington, D.C.-based sudser and is said to be penning multiple episodes.

But for Rhimes, the move to Netflix offers a chance to work in a variety of genres and formats that are beyond the scope of broadcast TV. In Netflix’s subscription environment, there’s more creative freedom to produce limited and recurring series of various episode lengths, and there’s flexibility even in the length of each episode. That is attractive to Rhimes. The producer has already proved herself in the broadcast arena, breaking ground with “Scandal” and “HTGAWM” in fielding series with African-American female leads.

The Netflix deal comes just days after ABC’s parent company seemed to have done the streaming service the disservice of opting not to renew Disney and Pixar movies when their licenses expire in 2019. The conglomerate also just announced plans to launch a pair of new streaming services, one from ESPN and another with a mix of Disney-related content that could provide a challenger to Netflix.

But Disney CEO Bob Iger played down the notion of any rivalry between the two companies, noting a range of other pacts that are still in place. Disney and Netflix are also negotiating over the future of films currently on the streaming service from Lucasfilm and Marvel.

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

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  1. Carl Baggins says:

    I think Netflix is about to find out, that when given many choices, few people are going to watch her stuff. She can compete with the trash on the other major broadcasters, but not the vast amount of offerings on Netflix that provide far better entertainment.

  2. Kathleen Lauchnor says:

    I want to know are you still gonna be able to watch Grey’s anatomy,scandal,how to get away with murder on ABC cause that’s the only channel I have no cable if not got wait till it comes in dvd

  3. manfromatlan says:

    I loved Grey’s Anatomy and HTGAWM in the earlier seasons but her shows, like her story ideas, have declined in recent years. Nothing to inspire me to go to streaming. Still quite a diversity I can pick from on cable.

  4. Bobby says:

    After “The Catch,” “Still Star Crossed” and sure-to-bomb “For the People,” I think it’s safe to say that the departure of Ms. Rhimes is no big loss for ABC.

    PS: I’ll watch the finale, but “Scandal” should have wrapped two years ago.

  5. nerdrage says:

    Netflix has saturated the US market so much that at this point, I think they are playing Fill In The Blanks by deliberately targeting under-represented demographics such as black females, which Shonda can bring in. There’s nothing wrong with them doing this. It’s what corporations do in order to make more money, which is their goal.

    I’ve never cared too much for Shonda shows myself but I think that’s more my general lack of interest in broadcast twaddle. Too bland, too predictable for me. If she can take advantage of no longer needing to cater to the needs of advertisers and become more daring and original, then maybe I’ll like something from her.

  6. Eric Schatz says:

    “(H)ome run out of the gate” is a mixed metaphor.

  7. Shelly Shelton says:

    I think Shonda working with Netflix is definitely a good thing. I’m pretty sure she is about to give us some good and gritty shows/movies that she couldnt do with ABC. I’m exicted to see what she brings to Netflix. I’m hoping to see a different side of her writing and I wish her the best!

  8. Wow all the negative comments on here are more than likely from; mostly men, and not People of Color. LOL. For shows that you think are no good they sure have been around for awhile. The fact that the major talent behind the scenes and in front are people of color are probably what is making you all so miffied. Now Shondaland is going to Netflix to make more money than you will ever see. So go on and be as negative on here as you want. Good luck with that.

  9. So what says:

    What was the last time you watched something good on Netflix? A year ago? 6 months ago? Then CANCEL the damn thing and get a new subscription next time you want to watch something. You’ll be amazed at the money saved, and how little you miss settling for some dogs*** on Netflix, just because you pay for it.

  10. john franz says:

    Not good news to Netflix subscribers who hate Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal. Those shows are part of why I dumped cable. Big mistake…

  11. John says:

    Bring back Derek Shephard!

  12. Jerri Thomas says:

    God is good I’m glad they got you away from these jealous and not too nice people!!! Great Luck to you Ms. Rhimes so now I see why not so good before you ABC is pulling all of it’s Disney Entertainment……

  13. Steven Y says:

    Was on the fence but now that’s it, I’m canceling my Netflix subscription.

  14. Chris L says:

    Hey the only shows ABC has launched that get any traction at all are her shows. Maybe she doesn’t like the support she’s getting. When the current administration gets fired at ABC they’ll be wishing they had her back.

    Cancel her shows, see how their replacements do. The numbers will be worse. They always are.

  15. rarab says:

    She can spin it any way she wants but fact remains if ABC wanted to keep her, she would still be here. Her shows like Scandal, The Catch and Still Star Crossed cost a lot of money to produce and are not doing that well in the ratings. The Catch and Still Star Crossed both underperformed significantly. HTGAWM is only on the air because of Viola, it lost it’s initial audience pretty quickly. Scandal was her last real hit and even that must be losing ABC money with the bloated cast, huge fall in ratings thanks to the third rate spy drama, and drop in Ad money.

    • Cooper says:

      SR had an absolute Gold Mine (initially) in Scandal UNTIL she changed the ENTIRE trajectory of the show into the dumbest spy show ever created & just to make non-acting Scott Foley relevant period. And I’m of the opinion, that was the beginning of the end of ABCs relationship with Shondland. She FINALLY pissed off one too many fans & money talks & bullshit walks. We tried to warn you.

    • nerdrage says:

      Nothing is doing well in the ratings. Broadcast is dying because the under-50 audience is fleeing for streaming and advertisers don’t care about old folks. Shonda is just following the money before the Titanic of broadcast sinks beneath the waves entirely.

  16. Talia says:

    Honestly, I think this will improve TV at ABC. I’ll bet some are relieved that she doesn’t have a stranglehold on the place anymore. The last three Shondaland shows were nothing special at best. Greys was her peak. My prediction is that she will not produce great TV at Netflix.

  17. Bill says:

    ABC needed some new blood

  18. jimmy says:

    mediocre talent

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