Are 'Game of Thrones' Creators a Smart Gamble for Netflix?

The streamer's bet on David Benioff and Dan Weiss is unusual in that the biggest TV overalls have gone to prolific showrunners who juggle writing with overseeing other creators on multiple programs.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO
Dan Weiss and David Benioff

With a game-changing franchise behind them and another that might keep them busy for the next six years, Game of Thrones turned Star Wars maestros David Benioff and Dan Weiss have signed a five-year, $250 million overall deal with Netflix that has been met with envy and a bit of head-scratching.

The biggest TV overalls have gone to prolific showrunners like Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy and Greg Berlanti, who juggle writing with overseeing other creators on multiple programs. Benioff and Weiss, both 48, have focused exclusively on one project and effectively made just 73 episodes of TV. (They wouldn't even start on Star Wars for Disney until Thrones was finished.)

In contrast, Netflix-based Rhimes (four years, $100 million-plus) has eight projects in the works halfway into her deal, Murphy (five years, $300 million) said that he has 10 projects 18 months after moving to the streamer and Berlanti has a TV-record 18 series on the air for Warner Bros. "The only way to make a deal like this work is if you have multiple shows," one top exec tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The bet is that they'll do another Game of Thrones, and that's a big bet."

Sources say the Thrones pair is writing a treatment for a Star Wars trilogy and is committed to penning at least one of the films (the original deal was to write all three). It's unclear if the duo, who also have another feature for Fox/Disney carved out, will do more than just write for Star Wars.

Still, a person familiar with the Netflix deal says the streamer was briefed on their Star Wars schedule and isn't worried: "It's not going to be 10 years [until] Netflix sees their first output," adding that Benioff and Weiss "have a lot of ambition."

"Certain people command [nine figures,] and we've made those deals," says Universal TV president Pearlena Igbokwe, who inked multitasking producer Mike Schur (The Good Place) to a five-year pact valued at $125 million. "[Benioff and Weiss] is not a deal that I went after."

The same is true for HBO, the duo's decade-plus home, which sources say was unwilling to offer the bid they wanted. Instead, HBO parent WarnerMedia is in final talks for a $500 million pact with J.J. Abrams — who already has three shows on the network. 

This story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.