"No One Is Clamoring to Be at Facebook": A TV Creator's Guide to Streaming Platforms

6:00 AM 10/4/2017

by Bryn Elise Sandberg and Lacey Rose

Programming, creators and agents weigh in on the perks, the digs and what each of these digital companies wants most from Hollywood.

'The Ranch'
'The Ranch'
Greg Gayne/Netflix

With the explosion of streaming services in Hollywood, agents and executives have more options than ever when it comes to where they take their TV shows. And now that Apple is the newest entrant in the increasingly competitive arms race for prestige programming, they have yet another attractive (and deep-pocketed) buyer. Below, the town’s top sellers weigh in on the perks, the digs and what each of these tech companies wants most from Hollywood.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Netflix

    Content Budget $6B

    And the streamer expects that number to grow to $7 billion in 2018

    Top Decision-Makers CCO Ted Sarandos and No. 2 Cindy Holland have empowered a vast team, though big moves still fall to these two.

    Looking For Everything, though sellers cite YA horror, multicam comedies (like The Ranch) and even a musical.

    The Allure Netflix maintains its "cool kid" rep, notes one source, with a massive global footprint, an unrivaled content budget and baked-in prestige. Plus, it will stick with properties it likes (see Will Arnett's Flaked) and pay big for hot for talent (Shonda Rhimes' $100 million deal).

    The Knock With so many series rolling out weekly, it's easy for new ones to get lost. Also working against Netflix: Deals mostly preclude sharing meaningfully in a hit and there's a growing maze of executives. "Sometimes I'm like, who do I even call?" groans one agent.

  • Amazon

    Content Budget $4.5B

    With an increasing portion going toward event series

    Top Decision-Makers It's "the Roy Price show," as one rep puts it, but Joe Lewis and newcomer Sharon Tal Yguado have latitude.

    Looking For Genre plays, with Tal Yguado's group making big swings to land Amazon's own Game of Thrones.

    The Allure Though it recently pivoted to focus on world-building fare, its output and ability to spend (i.e., $160 million on David O. Russell's Robert De Niro-Julianne Moore drama) is more significant than any of its peers', save for Netflix. Says a rep, "They'll spend a shitload of money."

    The Knock That strategy shift, which had Amazon backtracking on renewals, along with what one top rep describes as "leadership challenges." And though it has made deals more transparent with rewards for success, backend potential remains limited.

  • Hulu

    Content Budget $2.5B

    But without a global reach; Hulu's spend includes only domestic content

    Top Decision-Makers Though Mike Hopkins and his board are hands on, creative falls to Joel Stillerman, Craig Erwich and Beatrice Springborn.

    Looking For Big tentpole IP, which can make noise a la The Handmaid's Tale, and more animation and edgy comedy voices.

    The Allure Big momentum with Handmaid's, which proved that Hulu could nurture and market a bona fide breakout. Its best drama Emmy — the first for a streamer — was not lost on the town's sellers, who love the idea that they can still own and profit big off of Hulu shows.

    The Knock It's a smaller platform than Netflix or Amazon, which means less output and less real estate. One agent references a "bottleneck," as writers and reps wait on projects' fate, though word is Stillerman is looking to speed things up.

  • Apple

    Content Budget $1B+

    The deep-pocketed tech giant hopes to establish itself as a premium buyer

    Top Decision-Makers Sony alums Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht head programming, with Matt Cherniss manning development.

    Looking For At least to start, big, sweeping, prestige dramas (think: Game of Thrones and The Crown).

    The Allure It's the biggest and arguably most innovative company in the world, so the opportunity to be on the ground floor — what Mad Men was to AMC or House of Cards to Netflix — has the town salivating. Added bonus: a licensing model and a team of familiar execs.

    The Knock It's not interested in working at the pace or scale of Netflix, which means leadership passes on the majority of what's come at them. And at least for now, there are plenty of questions, such as how will their shows be distributed and what does a deal with Apple look like?

  • YouTube Red

    Content Budget N/A

    YouTube is said to be willing to spend hundreds of millions, if not billions

    Top Decision-Makers Sellers are excited about new hire Jon Wax, but ultimately, Susanne Daniels' opinion matters most.

    Looking For Female ensemble shows like Sex and the City, a John Wick-esque action drama and a family show like 7th Heaven.

    The Allure While the industry isn't bum-rushing Daniels' office just yet, sellers can't ignore its reach (1.5 billion free active users). The platform's play for 18- to 34-year-olds is betting on fare that's edgier and more grounded than Freeform's conventional, frothy programming.

    The Knock An unproven mandate change (swapping digital stars for Hollywood names) and a limited track record. And though it landed a sought-after Karate Kid sequel, it hasn't become a must-stop for sellers. Snipes one, "It still feels like a second-tier cable network."

  • Facebook

    Content Budget N/A

    It's prepared to pay $3M for some dramas, around $50,000 for shortform

    Top Decision-Makers Content moves fall to global creative strategy head Ricky Van Veen and his development chief, Mina Lefevre.

    Looking For Younger and (hopefully) hipper programming, including high school fare — a turnoff at most other outlets.

    The Allure Two billion eyeballs is hard to turn your nose up at, even if Facebook's Watch platform is only available in the U.S. Though there are lots of questions lingering (including whether the service is really going to pony up), most sellers at least have Facebook accounts.

    The Knock A still elusive strategy, which several describe as smaller, cheaper and less prestige-based, has sellers skeptical. "If they know what they want, they're doing a bad job messaging it," says one development executive. "No one is clamoring to be at Facebook."