In a testament to the competition for talent, prolific showrunner Shonda Rhimes — the hit maker behind ABC's Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and more — has jumped ship from ABC Studios to Netflix.
Under the multiple-year deal, Rhimes and her Shondaland banner will create and produce new projects for the streaming giant. Rhimes' longtime producing partner Betsy Beers will continue to head Shondaland in the move to Netflix. Under what is said to be a rich four-year pact, Rhimes is expected to score a percentage of the backend on programming she creates for Netflix.
"Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television," Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said. "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."
The move further aligns Rhimes with Netflix, which has featured the Grey's Anatomy library that has helped elevate the veteran ABC medical soap to become the network's most-watched drama — a rare feat for a show in its 13th season. The series heads into season 14 in the fall as it sets its sights on being the longest-running medical drama on television alongside ER.
"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. "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."
ABC will continue to remain home to Grey's Anatomy and its upcoming spinoff as well as Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder and the forthcoming drama For the People. Rhimes had been with ABC Studios for 15 years.
"Our current shows will continue to thrive on ABC and Shondaland will be there every step of the way," Rhimes 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."
ABC Studios will remain the home to Shondaland disciples Pete Nowalk (How to Get Away With Murder), Krista Vernoff (Grey's Anatomy), Stacy McKee (the Grey's spinoff), Don Todd and Paul William Davies (For the People), Mark Fish (Scandal), Mark Wilding (Grey's spinoff), Bill Harper (Grey's Anatomy) and Allan Heinberg.
"We're so proud of the work we've done with Shonda and Betsy throughout our long and productive relationship. From the worldwide success of Grey's Anatomy to today, with five series, a pilot from Allan Heinberg and a number of projects in development, we will continue to shepherd that success together," ABC Studios president Moran said. "The Shondaland imprint will always be an important part of ABC Studios and we wish them all the best in this new endeavor."
Added ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey, who previously headed drama at the network: "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. 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."
Sources say Rhimes had been renegotiating her overall deal with ABC Studios for the past few months. That the prolific producer would exit the network's studio sibling comes as a blow for broadcast and a hint of things to come in the arms race for talent. With more than 455 scripted originals, broadcast, cable and streaming platforms are turning to proven hit makers like Rhimes for new material. Rhimes is the first African-American woman to notch the rare 100-episode milestone three times in her career (for Grey's, Private Practice and Scandal).
For Rhimes, it gives the star showrunner a new forum to tell richer stories that push the envelope as she has yet to explore the cable or streaming world. Scandal further solidified Rhimes as one of TV's most powerful showrunners and helped ABC bolster its Thursday lineup. With the strength of Scandal and emergence of How to Get Away With Murder, the network moved Grey's Anatomy to its formerly troubled 8 p.m. hour as it created a "TGIT"-branded night consisting of three Rhimes-produced dramas. Creatively, Scandal helped usher in a new era of diversity on the small screen when Rhimes cast Kerry Washington as fixer Olivia Pope. Washington picked up her first Emmy nomination in 2013 and became the first African-American to be nominated for best drama actress in the past 18 years and fifth overall.
The Rhimes deal — the streamer's first overall — comes as free-spending Netflix has been aggressive when it comes to luring top talent. Last week, the streamer picked up a talk show hosted by David Letterman and acquired comic book publisher Millarworld as it pushes to own more of its content. (Last week, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman moved from his home at AMC to Amazon under a rich overall deal as the streamer retail giant begins to do the same.)
Rhimes is repped by ICM Partners and attorney Michael Gendler.