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Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss’ time at HBO will soon be coming to a close.
The duo, who created and served as showrunners on the premium cable network’s megahit, are inching closer to a new overall deal elsewhere as they continue to take meetings across town and narrow the field for their new home. Sources say Benioff and Weiss have had meetings for a sizable overall deal with Amazon Studios, Netflix and, more recently, Disney/FX. Representatives for all media companies declined comment, as a deal is far from done.
Sources say Amazon Studios had been the front-runner until two weeks ago, when Netflix re-emerged with a competitive offer. Disney has also entered the conversation more recently, as some say the new super-sized Mouse House could be 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 are 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 shopped a new deal — has ramped up in the past month and has now reached a fever pitch after Game of Thrones — and its divisive final season — set a new Emmys 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, are said to want to focus on building up their company. Any new deal with the duo would 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 Star Wars trilogy already has been earmarked for a Dec. 16, 2022, release date. (Two subsequent Star Wars features have also been dated — for December 2024 and 2026 — though it’s unclear if any, either or both 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 series was shelved indefinitely. A new overall deal outside HBO would wipe 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.”
Should Benioff and Weiss select Amazon, they would join Game of Thrones grad Bryan Cogman and a roster of producers including Joy and Nolan (Westworld), Jordan Peele, Nicole Kidman, Michael B. Jordan, Sharon Horgan and Neil Gaiman, among others.
As for Netflix, the free-spending streamer who upended the market for overall deals is hot off a sour earnings quarter that saw it shed subscribers and miss its projections. Netflix has been making a wave of scripted cancellations (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.
As for Disney, the company has a massive TV studio that now counts 20th TV along with ABC Studios and cable-focused Fox 21. Benioff and Weiss would provide DTS with two huge genre showrunners at a time when the company is prepping for the November launch of its direct-to-consumer offering, Disney+.
Benioff and Weiss are repped by Hansen Jacobson.
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