In one of the biggest talent gets for Netflix yet that could shake up the drama series TV landscape, the streaming giant has landed one of the top drama showrunners on broadcast television, Shonda Rhimes. After a long tenure at ABC Studios, the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator is leaving the studio for a mega multi-year deal at the streaming giant, Netflix announced Sunday night.
Heading to Netflix with Rhimes is her Shondaland, which over the past year she had built into a full-fledged production company with its own infrastructure. Shondaland, in which Rhimes is partnered with Betsy Beers, will function as a division of Netflix’s in-house studio.
Rhimes had one more year under her four-year deal at ABC Studios. I hear she negotiated an early exit so she can go to Netflix. I hear the deal with Netflix has a length similar to the four-year ABC Studios pact and is richer.
While Netflix has been very aggressive, bringing in series from A-list showrunners like Jenji Kohan, Marta Kauffman, and Chuck Lorre, this is one of the boldest poaching moves by the deep-pocketed streaming network, luring away from network television one of its top writer-producers at the top of her game.
It comes on the heels of Disney’s announcement last week that it was planning to launch its own streaming services, ending its movie output deal with Netflix.
Rhimes will continue to work on the ABC/ABC shows Shondaland has on the air, the returning Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal — heading into its final season — and How To Get Away with Murder, and the upcoming For The People and a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff. ABC Studios also has pilot Adult Behavior with Allan Heinberg, and several other projects in various stages of development. It also has the creators and showrunners of the non-Rhimes created Shondaland series under overall deals.
Word is that, after twelve years, Rhimes was getting restless, feeling that she had accomplished all she could on broadcast TV and was looking for new opportunities to evolve as an artist and push the envelope.
“Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix. “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’ series already are among the most popular off-network titles on Netflix. Additionally, How to Get Away with Murder streams everywhere else in the world on Netflix, with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal available on Netflix in many regions as well.
“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. “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.”
Rhimes’ exit is a major loss for ABC and ABC Studios, where she had become the most prolific drama producer over the past decade. It also is a hit to the broadcast drama series genre, which had been under pressure to attract top-tier talent as many A-list creators have been increasingly bypassing network television for work in cable and streaming. Rhimes not only built an empire with some of the most popular hourlong shows on TV but also broke new ground in diversity on- and off-screen and turned her series into social powerhouses by introducing innovative ways to engage her fans on social media.
“We’re so proud of the work we’ve done with Shonda and Betsy throughout our long and productive relationship, said Patrick Moran, president ABC Studios. From the worldwide success of Grey’s Anatomy to today, with five series (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, For the People, and the Grey’s spinoff), a pilot from Allan Heinberg and a number of projects in development, we will continue to shepherd that success together. The Shondaland imprint will always be an important part of ABC Studios and we wish them all the best in this new endeavor.”
Rhimes’ departure puts an end of a decade-and-a-half close relationship with Disney, going back to her writing The Princess Diaries sequel for the movie studio. She segued to TV series with a 2003 ABC/ABC Studios pilot about war correspondents and the 2005 Grey’s Anatomy, which, thirteen seasons in, continues to be ABC’s highest-rated drama series.
She steadily added more long-running drama series, including the Grey’s spinoff Private Practice and Scandal, which she created, and HTGAWM, which her company produces. Rhimes is one of only handful of producers to control an entire night on a broadcast network as she does on ABC with TGIT. Shondaland currently has five series on ABC, which recently canceled the company’s The Catch and Still Star-Crossed.
“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,” said Channing Dungey, president, ABC Entertainment. “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.”
Rhimes is repped by ICM Partners and attorney Michael Gendler.