Another mega TV producer is leaving a longtime studio home to head to Netflix. In what is believed to be the biggest TV pact ever, Ryan Murphy, an Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning producer, director and writer, has signed an overall deal with Netflix, which could reach as high as $300 million, sources said. It starts July 1.
Under the five-year agreement, called “the deal of a lifetime for an artist of a lifetime” by one industry insider, Murphy and his Ryan Murphy Productions will produce new series and films exclusively at Netflix. Murphy is moving to Netflix, which also is home of top broadcast drama showrunner Shonda Rhimes, after a long stint at 20th Century Fox TV. He was one of the biggest names on the talent roster of the studio, which is poised to become part of Disney as part of the proposed acquisition, making his departure a blow to the combined entity.
“Ryan Murphy’s series have influenced the global cultural zeitgeist, reinvented genres and changed the course of television history. His unfaltering dedication to excellence and to give voice to the underrepresented, to showcase a unique perspective or just to shock the hell out of us, permeates his genre-shattering work,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix. From Nip/Tuck – our first licensed series – to American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and American Horror Story, we’ve seen how his brand of storytelling captivates consumers and critics across the globe. His celebrated body of work and his contributions to our industry speak for themselves, and we look forward to supporting Ryan in bringing his broad and diverse stories to the world.”
Netflix and Disney-Fox were among a slew of suitors for the prolific writer-producer-director, whose current deal with 20th Century Fox TV expires this year. The streaming giant had aggressively pursued him and already had gotten in the Ryan Murphy business by outbidding other SVOD/premium buyers twice to snag both of hisstreaming series, Ratched and The Politician.
“The history of this moment is not lost on me,” said Murphy. “I am a gay kid from Indiana who moved to Hollywood in 1989 with $55 dollars in savings in my pocket, so the fact that my dreams have crystallized and come true in such a major way is emotional and overwhelming to me. I am awash in genuine appreciation for Ted Sarandos, Reed Hastings and Cindy Holland at Netflix for believing in me and the future of my company which will continue to champion women, minorities and LGBTQ heroes and heroines, and I am honored and grateful to continue my partnership with my friends and peers at Fox on our existing shows.”
Murphy, one of the top creator-producers working in television today, has pulled off the rare feat of launching commercial and award-winning hits on both broadcast and cable. His jump to Netflix is another hit for the traditional TV business, which has been upended by deep-pocketed digital upstarts with the creators of some of the biggest broadcast and cable series now calling the streaming platforms home, including Murphy, Grey’s Anatomy‘s Rhimes, Friends‘ Marta Kauffman and Weeds’ Jenji Kohan (Netflix) and The Gilmore Girls’ Amy Sherman-Palladino (Amazon).
As Murphy admitted at TCA in January, he also had been courted by Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger. Disney is in the process of acquiring key Fox assets, including 20th TV. While I hear Murphy considered both options, the timing worked better for Netflix, which provided a clear vision for the future and an opportunity for Murphy to pursue TV series, films and documentaries — all under the same roof. Meanwhile, the alternative at the combined Disney-Fox company was still a subject to speculation because the deal is far off.
Murphy’s Netflix deal puts an end — at least for the time being — to one of the most successful collaborations between a creator and an executive in television.
“I wish Ryan well, and I know everyone at our company feels the same,” said Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden, who has worked closely with Murphy for years and counts him as a close personal friend. “We are lucky to have so many projects with him.”
Indeed, all seven series Murphy has on the air are with 20th TV/Fox 21 TV Studios, and, at least for the next year, he is expected to be focused on them, continuing to work with the executive teams at the studio as well as at Fox and FX. I hear Walden was approached about joining Murphy at Netflix. She is currently committed to her job at Fox, where her contract expires later this year, and has been rumored for a potential top post at Disney-Fox. Murphy and Walden reportedly had explored potentially launching a company together and, given the duo’s long history and very close relationship, it is possible for them to re-team in the future.
Murphy’s new original series, Ratched and The Politician, will premiere globally on Netflix. Murphy also oversees production on American Crime Story, American Horror Story and Feud on FX, 9-1-1 on Fox and the upcoming Pose, also on FX. His previous series credits include hits Nip/Tuck on FX and musical dramedy Glee on Fox.
Since the game-changing success of Nip/Tuck, which helped put FX on the original series map, Murphy has been closely associated with FX where he is currently shepherding four series, including the network’s top-rated American Horror Story and American Crime Story franchises.
“For more than 15 years, we have enjoyed an outstanding partnership with Ryan Murphy and we look forward to continuing that relationship on our four shows under his creative leadership,” FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said. “With more than 20 scripted original series on our schedule or upcoming, FX has a very successful track record of identifying and developing talented writers who have produced award-winning hit shows and it will continue to do so.”
While Murphy had been wooed for awhile, the deal with Netflix came down quickly, and it was instigated by the proposed Disney-Fox pact, which created uncertainty around his long-time home.
“Three months ago, I thought I was going to be buried on the Fox lot; I had my mausoleum picked out,” Murphy said in January. “I started working there in my 30s, and many of us had young children who would play together.”
Back then, Murphy said that he had received a phone call from Iger, reiterating that Disney was interested in what he had created in the sophisticated adult TV space. “The stuff that I do isn’t specifically Disney,” Murphy said. “I was concerned: Do I have to start putting Mickey Mouse in American Horror Story?”
The deal for Murphy was negotiated by CAA.