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Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss officially have a new home.
The duo have signed what sources say is a $200 million multiyear overall film and TV deal with Netflix. Under the pact, Benioff and Weiss will depart their longtime home at HBO and create and develop new projects for the streaming giant.
“We are thrilled to welcome master storytellers David Benioff and Dan Weiss to Netflix. They are a creative force and have delighted audiences worldwide with their epic storytelling. We can’t wait to see what their imaginations will bring to our members,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said Wednesday in a statement.
Added Benioff and Weiss in a joint statement: “We’ve had a beautiful run with HBO for more than a decade and we’re grateful to everyone there for always making us feel at home. Over the past few months we’ve spent many hours talking to Cindy Holland and Peter Friedlander, as well as Ted Sarandos and Scott Stuber. We remember the same shots from the same ’80s movies; we love the same books; we’re excited about the same storytelling possibilities. Netflix has built something astounding and unprecedented, and we’re honored they invited us to join them.”
Benioff and Weiss, who created and served as showrunners on HBO’s megahit Game of Thrones, were also in discussions with Disney (and its newly owned cable network FX) and Amazon, and came to their decision after extensive talks with Netflix.
Sources say Amazon Studios had been the front-runner until early July, when Netflix re-emerged with a competitive offer. Disney had also entered the conversation more recently, as some said the new super-sized Mouse House might have been offering a TV deal with FX Productions to go alongside a film pact with the company. Benioff and Weiss are already in business with Disney, working on a Star Wars trilogy for Disney-owned Lucasfilm.
Sources say Benioff and Weiss were seeking a deal worth as much as $200 million as they attempt to surpass the $150 million pact Westworld creators Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan signed with Amazon in April. Joy and Nolan’s five-year agreement is estimated to be worth in the $30-million-per-year territory. When factoring in payouts from Warner Bros. TV to remain showrunners on three additional seasons of HBO’s Westworld, Joy and Nolan’s deal clocks in at $200 million.
Heat around Benioff and Weiss — who fired their longtime reps at Management 360 as they sought a new deal — ramped up this summer and reached a fever pitch after Game of Thrones set a new Emmy record for the most nominations by a single program in one year (32). The pair had quietly begun canvassing the marketplace earlier this year, taking meetings with media titans including HBO parent WarnerMedia (which is in final negotiations for a $500 million pact with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot), Disney, Comcast, Amazon and Apple.
Benioff and Weiss, with Game of Thrones now in the rearview mirror, were said to want to focus on building up their company. Any new deal with the duo was considered likely have to include overhead costs to set up a production company. The bigger question about Benioff and Weiss is going to be just when they would have time to focus on new projects, given their commitment to writing a Star Wars trilogy for Disney.
The first pic in their trilogy has already been earmarked for a Dec. 16, 2022, release date. (Two subsequent Star Wars features have also been dated — for December 2024 and December 2026 — though it’s unclear which, if any of these, are from Benioff and Weiss or Rian Johnson, who is also developing a second trilogy for Lucasfilm.)
Still, Star Wars was always poised to take priority over their previously announced projects at HBO. Benioff and Weiss were set to write and serve as showrunners on Confederate, the straight-to-series drama alongside Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Justified, The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire). The show — which takes place in an alternate timeline where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution — immediately drew controversy. That series was eyed to launch in either 2018 or 2019, after Benioff and Weiss completed their work on the final season of Thrones. Following the backlash, the project was shelved indefinitely. Their new overall with Netflix wipes Confederate off HBO’s books.
Sources say HBO — the duo’s longtime home for the past decade — met with Benioff and Weiss’ legal teams and quickly determined that they did not want to compete to keep them given the size of the deal and their looming commitment to Star Wars. Still, the two will be credited as executive producers on any and all Game of Thrones prequel series, though they declined to be involved in any sort of hands-on capacity with any of the scripts currently in development/at the pilot stage. (HBO programming president Casey Bloys told reporters this week that production on the prequel pilot has been completed.)
“They’re meeting everywhere, which I totally get,” Bloys told The Hollywood Reporter in May after the Game of Thrones series finale. “It’s a great time to be a creator. People are throwing open doors and throwing money around. So if you’re a creator with a proven track record, it’s a great time. I think they’re doing the right thing and seeing what’s out there. We obviously have a strong relationship with them; Warner Bros. has worked with them both individually in the past. We’ll see where they end up. Obviously, we think they’re great. They’re going through the process they should go through.”
As for Netflix, the free-spending streamer that upended the market for overall deals, is fresh off a sour earnings quarter that saw it shed subscribers and miss its projections. Netflix has been making a wave of scripted cancellations (The O.A., Chambers, She’s Gotta Have It, Designated Survivor, Tuca and Bertie) as it weighs the cost of new programs against returning seasons and which of those two is more attractive to potential new subscribers. The company already has deals with mega-producers Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris, among others, across multiple programming genres.
Benioff and Weiss are repped by Hansen Jacobson.
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