'Westworld' Creators Ink Nine-Figure Overall Deal With Amazon

Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan have exited their home at Warner Bros. TV, but will remain involved with the HBO genre drama.
John P Johnson/HBO
Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy

Westworld creators Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan are on the move.

The married couple and showrunners behind the HBO juggernaut have inked a rich nine-figure, five-year overall deal with Amazon. Sources estimate the deal is worth upward of $30 million per year. 

Joy and Nolan — who will create original series for Amazon — both previously had individual overall deals with Westworld producers Warner Bros. TV. The duo will continue to oversee Westworld as writers and executive producers for multiple additional seasons, or as one source said, "for the life of the show." Season three is currently in production and the genre drama has yet to be renewed beyond that. Its third season will likely return in 2020. Sources say there are no plans to bring in a new showrunner for a potential fourth season or beyond as remaining at the helm of Westworld was a top priority for Joy and Nolan. Their decision to remain in place is a change from other top showrunners (like Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris) who departed their long-running hits after moving their overall deals to new outlets.

When factoring in the deal to remain on Westworld — which sources say is for another three seasons — the deal clocks in at an estimated $200 million. 

"We are incredibly excited to begin this new adventure with Amazon Studios," Nolan and Joy said Friday in a joint statement. "Jennifer Salke’s vision for the future of our business is bold and forward-thinking, and she’s assembled a brilliant creative team to execute it. We can’t wait to dive in to make some batshit crazy television together. And we’re thrilled to continue our collaboration with our friends and partners at Warner Bros. and HBO on Westworld, [Amazon's] The Peripheral and more for seasons to come.”

Sources say Amazon's head of genre programming Sharon Tal Yguado was instrumental in bringing Joy and Nolan to Amazon. The overall pact extends Joy and Nolan's relationship with Amazon, where they have been developing a take on William Gibson's The Peripheral, which has a script-to-series commitment attached. That potential series hails from WBTV and Joy and Nolan's Kilter Films.

"Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy are two of the most talented and inventive creators in the business,” said Amazon Studios head Salke. "They have mastered the art of working in tandem as well as individually on so many fantastic projects across film and television. They each bring their own unique storytelling abilities to the partnership, creating unforgettable characters in addictive and compelling worlds. We are ready to jump right in and can’t wait to deliver their future projects to our Amazon Prime Video audience.”

Joy and Nolan's Kilter Films banner will now be based at Amazon, with company president Athena Wickham, creative exec Halle Phillips and creative producer Noreen O'Toole all making the move as well.

With the overall deal, Joy and Nolan officially join the upper echelon of showrunners with nine-figure pacts that includes Rhimes and Ryan Murphy (Netflix), Greg Berlanti (WBTV) and Mike Schur (Universal TV).

In Joy and Nolan, Amazon secures a pair of proven genre hitmakers at a time when the streamer has been more selective when it comes to signing massive overall deals. The retail giant and streamer, under video head Salke, has opted for a curated list of producers (Jordan Peele, Nicole Kidman) with first-look deals that allow them the freedom to sell elsewhere should Amazon pass.

"Partnerships at Amazon come out of a shared ambition for what we want to do and a hands-on element," Salke told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. "That's the kind of stuff we want, not big giant unwieldy things that we can't control."

Joy and Nolan become the latest showrunners to move their overall deals at a time when streamers like Netflix have created a war for top talent. The market for top talent continues to escalate as media behemoths Apple, WarnerMedia, Disney and Comcast plan streaming services of their own to better compete with established tech giants including Netflix and Amazon. Joy and Nolan follow Pretty Little Liars creator I. Marlene King out the door at Warners. King left her home of a decade at Warners for a rich deal with Disney's 20th TV, while Universal TV earlier this month re-signed The Good Place creator Schur to a five-year, nine-figure pact after losing Mindy Kaling to Warner Bros. TV (where she signed a six-year, eight-figure overall deal). Fresh Off the Boat showrunner Nahnatchka Khan also moved her overall deal from 20th TV to Universal TV in February.

Joy (who started her career on ABC's Pushing Daisies and is making her feature directorial debut with Warners' Reminiscence) and Nolan (Person of Interest, features Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises) are repped by WME and attorney Michael Schenkman.