ABC’s prestige factor took a hit Sunday night, but don’t blame an off-episode of “Steve Harvey’s Funderdome.”
Netflix made a surprise, late-night announcement that the streaming giant has signed Shonda Rhimes to a multi-year deal with her production company, Shondaland. Rhimes, a long-time and current staple of ABC Thursday night dramas, will produce new original series and other projects for Netflix. She will reportedly receive $10 million per year to generate new content there.
Rhimes’ three existing ABC dramas — “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” and “Grey’s Anatomy” — will continue to air on the American Broadcasting Company, including the new seasons slated to air on the 2017-2018 TV schedule. But Rhimes’ longtime producing partner, Betsy Beers, is joining her at Netflix.
“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,” Rhimes said in a statement. “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 future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities.”
“Our current shows will continue to thrive on ABC and Shondaland will be there every step of the way,” her statement said. “I could not have asked for a better home to begin my career. I continue to be grateful to work with so many talented people —especially our studio gladiator Patrick Moran and our most powerful and brilliant champion Channing Dungey.”
“Starting today, we are thrilled to begin creating new Shondaland stories with Netflix. Everyone at Shondaland is honored to expand both our audience and our creative identity with Ted and the entire team at Netflix.”
The allure of creative freedom offered by streaming services like Netflix has proven irresistible to many creators. Just last week, Amazon signed Robert Kirkman to a deal, wooing “The Walking Dead” creator away from AMC.
But the No. 1 streaming service in the world has a history of its own: Prominent creators like Marta Kauffman (“Friends,” “Grace and Frankie”), Norman Lear (“One Day at a Time”), and Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men,” “Disjointed”), who all have had great success in broadcast TV, are now singing the praises of being in the binging business. And in the last seven days, Netflix has brought David Letterman out of retirement, acquired comic book publisher Millarworld, and signed Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen for a western TV series, their first.
In a shared statement, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey emphasized the ongoing relationship with Rhimes and Shondaland.
“Shonda, Betsy and I started working together with the first episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and those early days will forever remain one of the highlights of my professional life,” Dungey said. “We are happy to continue working with Shonda and her team at Shondaland on ‘Grey’s,’ ‘Scandal,’ ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ and the upcoming ‘For the People’ and ‘Grey’s’ spinoff. I’m proud to have given a home to what have become some of the most celebrated and talked about shows on television. 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.”
That being said, the news comes as ABC’s drama brand is in need of a boost. The network axed “American Crime” in May, which still managed to earn Emmy nominations for its final season, while its other dramas failed to make a similar impact with the TV Academy. Though Rhimes’ “How to Get Away with Murder” earned two nominations, the leading ABC programs were the reality series “Dancing with the Stars” and the Oscars’ telecast.
Rhimes’ Thursday night dramas are among the few remaining appointment-viewing programs released weekly on broadcast. Series that require viewers to tune-in the night-of are rarer and rarer, as audiences continue to utilize time-shifted viewing to watch at their own leisure. Rhimes’ twist-heavy nighttime soaps demand immediate attention — or viewers risk being spoiled — making them quite valuable to ABC.
But the idea of streaming a Shondaland series is enticing. Not only have some fans already chosen to watch this way — “Scandal,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “Grey’s Anatomy” have been made available on Netflix shortly after their seasons ended on ABC — but creating new shows for the network makes a lot of attractive options possible. Seasons, for instance, could be shorter, and thus avoid the bloat brought on by making 24 episodes a year. Rhimes could also branch out into different genres, rather than keep making the same kind of shows networks trust her to do well.
Netflix has been sharing its excitement via Twitter. Take a look at a few highlights below.
Netflix has signed a multiyear deal with Shonda Rhimes – poaching her from ABC. Story on @variety coming soon
— Todd Spangler (@xpangler) August 14, 2017
Shonda Rhimes 3D traumedy rom-com musical version of the Starting Over House.
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) August 14, 2017
You guys should sell that as a premium add-on tier
— Todd Spangler (@xpangler) August 14, 2017
WOW! GO Shonda!! I’m actually scared, idk if I could survive binging Shondaland shows… https://t.co/iotdgnRaa6
— Ivy Onyeador, PhD(!) (@Ivuoma) August 14, 2017