JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot are in final talks for him to keep his TV business and move his film business under the WarnerMedia umbrella. There had been rampant speculation that he would end up there or with Apple, with WarnerMedia emerging as a frontrunner over the past couple of weeks as the shorthand he had developed with the Warner Bros TV gang, and a massive financial commitment has won the most coveted overall deal that had been in play. Expectations were that the deal would fall in the $500 million range.
Deadline reported earlier this month that it was down to WarnerMedia and Apple, with the traditional media company having the upper hand over tech giant, a comparative newcomer in the content creation game.
Abrams, of course, has the history at WarnerMedia as Bad Robot had been based at Warner Bros. TV for many years, delivering a string of series. Of the company’s current shows, three are at WarnerMedia’s HBO, Westworld, Lovecraft and Demimonde, the first series Abrams has solely created since Alias, with the premium network also developing Bad Robot’s They Both Die At the End. The company also has three series at Apple via Warner Bros. TV, which also has been aggressively pursuing the multi-hyphenated: the Stephen King adaptation Lisey’s Story, starring Julianne Moore; Sara Bareilles’ Little Voice; and My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, toplined by Jennifer Garner.
We hear that Abrams’ talks with Apple had evolved over the past weeks, focusing on continuing to work together and not through an overall deal as the expectation is that a new WarnerMedia pact would keep allowing Bad Robot to produce for outside networks.
In the era of giant TV overall deals, it is easier for incumbent studios to come up with competitive offers for prolific creators/producers as they often have the advantage of being able to sweeten their overall deal proposals with advances toward the producers’ backend.
This marks the second mega overall deal renewal for Warner Bros. TV, following the $400 million re-up for Greg Berlanti last year.
In addition to WarnerMedia and Apple, Abrams and his team had engaged with Comcast/NBCUniversal and Sony, with talks slowing down after Abrams, along with 7,000 other WGA members, in April fired his agents at CAA in all areas except directing.
On the film side, Abrams is coming from an expensive overall deal at Paramount that paid off with the launch of the franchise Cloverfield, and the revival of Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. But it proved hard for that studio to have his allegiance as a filmmaker, the place Abrams has turned in some of his best results. He has directed two Star Wars films for Disney while under the Paramount deal, the latest of which, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, debuts December 20 to cap of what indisputably will be a record year for the studio. These overall deals with A-list filmmaker/producers are always tough that way — Universal’s deal with Guillermo del Toro was strained when he signed to write/direct The Hobbit movies, and Steven Spielberg always cut his host studio into co-fi roles in projects he fell in love with at other studios, so it will be interesting to see how Warner Bros chief Toby Emmerich fares in getting him to direct pictures in the studio fold.
Abrams’ has become more a re-fashioner of franchises than a world creator, and it was understand this deal would serve as an opportunity for him to become the latter. While WarnerMedia doesn’t have the theme parks that Disney and Comcast have, Abrams will have full access to strong WarnerMedia platforms that include a fledgling streaming service, and he clearly has the potential to leave a strong mark on the studio in this deal.
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