The deal is valued at well above $300 million over its six-year term, and could rise to as much as $400 million given the hefty guarantees Berlanti and his company will realize on future shows.
The pact is unusual in that it is structured as an acquisition with Warner Bros. TV Group taking an interest in Greg Berlanti Productions. The acquisition has the effect of buying out Berlanti’s profit participation points in the 14 existing shows his banner is producing for the studio — shows spread across six networks, not counting two animated series that his company shepherds for the CW Seed digital platform. The acquisition structure also has significant tax benefits for Berlanti.
Keeping Berlanti in the fold was crucial for Warner Bros. TV, as the producer is the engine behind so much of the studio’s scripted production activity. It also sends a message that the studio is willing to play in the big-league moneyball game accelerated by Netflix, Amazon, and Apple’s move into original content. Netflix made headlines earlier this year in setting a nine-figure pact with uber-showrunner Ryan Murphy that has been valued at upwards of $250 million over five years.
The deal hammered out by Berlanti’s reps at WME and attorney Patti Felker was designed to provide Berlanti’s company iron-clad cash guarantees on every show he delivers, and to help Berlanti monetize the multitude of profit participation points he holds on current productions.
Berlanti Productions has yet to field a big-time syndication hit — the kind of show that delivers enormous windfall for profit participants. But he has generated a volume that left him with a portfolio of stakes in smaller shows that will deliver a steady stream of profits over time. Warner Bros.’ buyout of Berlanti’s points is a means of liquidating those stakes for Berlanti in one fell swoop.
The deal covers television only, leaving Berlanti as a free agent in film. In addition to all of his TV work, Berlanti is active as a film writer, director, and producer. He’s just coming off the critical success of coming-of-age comedy “Love, Simon,” which 20th Century Fox released earlier this year.
Also notable is the fact that Berlanti and his team did not make the rounds of other studios and platforms before renewing their vows with Warner Bros. TV. Sources close to the situation say Berlanti, who is known for his loyalty to friends and colleagues, had no interest in moving from his longtime studio home. Warner Bros. TV Group chief Peter Roth and studio head Kevin Tsujihara were proactive in courting the producer with a long-term renewal. Indeed, Berlanti’s previous deal still had two years to run, but that time frame is now superseded by the new pact.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Peter Roth, Kevin Tsujihara, Craig Hunegs, Susan Rovner & Brett Paul and everyone else here at Warner Bros. who has provided me with such a wonderful home to tell stories for many years — and now many years to come,” Berlanti said. “A lot has changed about TV since I started working in it 20 years ago, but what hasn’t changed is how blessed I feel to come to work every day, where I work with the most talented, hardest-working company, executives, showrunners, actors, writers, directors, casts and crews in the business. I’m eternally grateful to all of them and to the audiences that have watched our shows. And finally, I’m thankful for the love, guidance and support I get from my husband, my family and my friends, which make moments like this one possible and all the moments in between the real reward.”
Berlanti Prods. has been based on the Warner Bros. lot since 2011. He was also affiliated with the studio from 2002 through 2006, after he emerged as a rising star through his success as a writer-producer on WB Network’s “Dawson’s Creek.” The core of Berlanti’s stable is the “Arrow”-verse of DC Comics shows produced for the CW: “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” and the latest addition, “Black Lightning.” He also sold two dramas to CBS for next season — “The Red Line” and “God Friended Me” — and has “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” for Netflix.
“We could not be more excited to extend our partnership with Greg Berlanti, a true giant in the television industry,” said Roth. “Greg has been integral to our success since his return in 2011, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with him and the entire Berlanti Productions team.”