On the heels of Greg Berlanti setting a new record for a producer with 14 live-action scripted series on the air, he has re-upped his overall deal with the studio behind all of his shows. Berlanti has signed a giant extension of his exclusive overall development and production deal with Warner Bros. Television Group that would keep him at the studio through 2024. No financial terms are being disclosed but sources peg the pact at more than $300 million over the next six years. It includes the studio buying out Berlanti’s back-end, which is not unusual in the biggest overall pacts for the top TV showrunners. There are additional guarantees and incentives if Berlanti keeps up the volume of his slate that could potentially push the value of the deal toward $400 million.
In traditional media, this is believed to be the biggest overall deal besides Warner Bros.’ pact with comedy king Chuck Lorre, whose sitcoms have made a ton of money for the studio in the off-network market. Berlanti Prods.’ has an all-drama portfolio. While off-network market for hourlong series is pretty soft, they do sell well internationally, especially Blindspot and some of the DC shows,
And then there are the aggressive tech upstarts like Netflix and Amazon that have been putting pressure on TV studios by luring some of the top TV creators away their long-time homes with super rich overall deals, particularly Netflix’s recent pacts with Ryan Murphy, which could reach $300 million over five years, and Shonda Rhimes, also said to be in the $300 million ballpark over five years and worth potentially more in success.
It was that pressure on studios to try and secure their top talent that likely prompted Warner Bros. TV brass to reach out to Berlanti a couple of months ago about re-upping, well ahead of the end of his current contract which does not expire until 2020. Berlanti had been public about his intention to stay at Warner Bros., where he created his first series, Everwood, and where his current tenure dates to 2011. (Berlanti had previously been based at WBTV from 2002–2006, where he also co-created Jack and Bobby.) With both sides willing to make a deal, the mega extension came together relatively quickly, with Berlanti never taking a meeting with another studio. Like Berlanti’s previous Warner Bros. deal, it only covers TV, his film pact is at Fox.
“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 today. “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.”
The size of Berlanti’s new deal is sending a message that traditional studios are not going to lie down and watch streamers cherry pick their most prolific showrunners and are willing to step up with larger deals and bigger upfront payments to secure their top moneymakers.
Berlanti Productions is currently in production on a record 14 live-action scripted series. Under the new agreement, Berlanti will continue as executive producer of those series: All American, Arrow, Black Lightning, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Riverdale and Supergirl for The CW; Blindspot for NBC; God Friended Me and The Red Line for CBS; Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for Netflix; Doom Patrol and Titans for the DC Universe digital service; and You for Lifetime.
Additionally, Berlanti Productions produces the animated digital series Freedom Fighters: The Ray and Constantine: City of Demons for CW Seed.
With his team, Berlanti will also continue to develop original programming — dramas, comedies, longform/event series and potential digital content — for all platforms, including broadcast, premium and basic cable, and on-demand/streaming, via Warner Bros. Television, Warner Horizon Scripted Television or the TV Group’s digital studio, Blue Ribbon Content. Warner Bros. International Television Distribution will distribute shows globally.
“We could not be more excited to extend our partnership with Greg Berlanti, a true giant in the television industry,” said Warner Bros. Television Group President and Chief Content Officer Peter 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.”
Berlanti has also been a major force behind increasing inclusion and diversity on television, something he has valued as much as his big commercial success. Berlanti Productions series have included:
- the first gay superhero to headline a TV series (Russell Tovey as The Ray in Freedom Fighters: The Ray)
- the first romantic kiss between two gay characters (Dawson’s Creek)
- the first legal gay marriage on network TV (Brothers and Sisters)
- first transgender recurring character in primetime (Dirty Sexy Money)
- the first openly gay African-American male and female superheroes on TV (Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific in Arrow and Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce in Black Lightning)
- adding first live-action trans superhero on Supergirl this season
- the first African-American superhero to headline a live-action network TV series (Jefferson Pierce in Black Lightning)
- casting of people of color in roles traditionally depicted as Caucasian in source material (Candice Patton and Jesse L. Martin as Iris West and Det. Joe West, respectively, in The Flash, Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen in Supergirl, Camila Mendes as Veronica onRiverdale)
- commitment to increase directing opportunities for people of color and women (all seven CW shows are now at 50% female or ethnically diverse directors)
Berlanti is repped by WME and attorney Patti Felker.