LeBron James is looking for a slam dunk of a new overall deal for his content company SpringHill Entertainment, insiders familiar with the talks told Variety. Thanks to a wide field of potential suitors, the production entity is currently considering separate deals in film and television at different studios, sources said.
Disney Television Studios, Universal Pictures, Amazon Studios, Netflix and other companies had meetings with James and his team in recent months to discuss coming in-house to produce features, series and more in a first-look or exclusive engagement, said the insiders.
The NBA champion and his creative team, led by CEO Maverick Carter, have called Warner Bros. Entertainment home since 2015. That deal expired last July, according to three people familiar with the terms, though the AT&T-owned shop is still in the running to keep James on the lot. They are now competing against the aforementioned majors, infused with cash to win digital subscribers, as well as the free-spending streamers.
SpringHill has been quietly building credits since 2008, and made the Warner Bros. Entertainment deal five years ago at the urging of former CEO Kevin Tsujihara, said sources. As the working relationship is still solid (AT&T loves James, sang a chorus of voices in the reporting of this story), the Ann Sarnoff-led group is said to be keen on retaining SpringHill for feature films only. The studio is currently in production on the live-action animation hybrid “Space Jam 2,” which will mark the athlete’s highest profile acting gig to date, alongside WB vault treasure Bugs Bunny. SpringHill also has an update of the iconic Kid ‘N Play comedy “House Party” in development at WB film label New Line Cinema.
Universal is a formidable competitor for WB in the feature space, where SpringHill has already set a film adaptation of the book “Shooting Stars.” Written by James and Buzz Bissinger, the book follows James and his four best friends on their quest for glory in youth basketball. It’s unclear how far talks have advanced past film, though people familiar with their conversations said the Comcast company would be happy to offer him a bungalow.
In terms of television, SpringHill has had serious conversations about an overall with Disney Television Studios, the superpower formed in Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox. That potential union would make James and company one of the first with the ability to collaborate with any or all of its holdings: 20th Century Fox Television, ABC Studios and Fox 21 Television Studios — not to mention its theatrical, broadcast and digital distribution platforms. Feature films are not currently on the table in the Disney talks, said another insider.
Conversations with Amazon and Netflix have been project-based, but broached the larger deal, said people familiar with those meetings. On Tuesday, Netflix released the first trailer for SpringHill’s “Self Made: Inspired by the Life Of Madam C.J. Walker,” a limited series about America’s first self-made female millionaire, starring Octavia Spencer. The company is also a producer on “Top Boy.”
While many close to the negotiations were hesitant to put a value on a new deal, especially given the likely split between film and TV pacts, insiders said SpringHill’s low overhead and increasingly confident slate could easily see a low-to-mid eight-figure payday. That’s on top of earnings from his other career. James’ net worth is a reported $480 million.
Representatives for SpringHill declined to comment for this story. Spokespeople for Warner Bros., Universal, Netflix, Amazon and Disney had no comment.
For the past three years, SpringHill has cast a wide net, both in genres and distributors. The company will imminently announce a documentary series for Quibi, and counts projects like the NBC game show “The Wall,” the HBO interview series “The Shop” and the HBO doc “Muhammad Ali,” which debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.