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Hulu is joining the race to lock down talent.
In the streamer’s second pact of its kind, Hulu has inked an overall development deal with The Handmaid’s Tale creator and showrunner Bruce Miller.
The pact, made in conjunction with Handmaid’s Tale producer MGM Television, will see Miller create and develop new projects for the studio and streamer, as well as identify writers to work with him on projects under his banner. Miller, whose 30-year TV career includes stints as a writer-producer on ER, Everwood and Medium, will continue to oversee the Emmy- and Peabody-winning drama The Handmaid’s Tale.
The deal comes less than a week after Hulu bowed the second season of critically adored Handmaid’s Tale, which Miller, 53, adapted from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name. The drama has been a game-changer for Hulu, vaulting it into the prestige TV conversation and earning it eight wins at the 2017 Emmy Awards, including for best drama and drama actress (Elisabeth Moss). In its second season, Miller continues to deliver with a sophomore outing that The Hollywood Reporter praised as thriving “in many of the same emotional, yet soaringly beautiful, ways it succeeded last year.” The New York Times called it “a confident, emotionally rich series.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale series would not be the creative force it is without Bruce Miller behind it,” Hulu vp content development Beatrice Springborn said Monday in a statement. “He is truly a one-of-a-kind partner and storyteller, and we’re thrilled to continue our relationship with him to bring authentic, relevant and riveting stories to Hulu.”
Added Steve Stark, MGM president of television production and development: “Bruce and I have worked together for many years, and it is such a privilege for me and our team to be able to continue to work with him and Hulu. His leadership, skill and brilliant vision for The Handmaid’s Tale has helped the series to transcend political and cultural boundaries, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Miller, an Emmy winner for his work writing the pilot episode, had been a longtime fan of Atwood’s novel. When Hulu began developing the project with MGM TV, executives looked for a woman to write the show, but were impressed by Miller, who has built a steady career writing on a range of TV shows, and his take on how to make the 30-year-old story relevant for a new generation (at that point, Barack Obama was still president, and it would be months before the story of Offred and her fellow handmaids would find new resonance under Donald Trump’s presidency).
Hulu is joining forces with Miller during an increasingly competitive moment in Hollywood. Last year, Netflix — spurred by a push to own a larger percentage of the shows it debuts on its service each year — began an aggressive campaign to tie up top talent, beginning with a $100 million multiyear deal with Shonda Rhimes and, more recently, luring Ryan Murphy away from his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television with a five-year, $300 million pact. Along the way, Netflix also signed overall deals with Jenji Kohan and Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy. Amazon, meanwhile, has aligned with Catastrophe co-creator Sharon Horgan, Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and Apple has jumped into the race through an overall deal with Bates Motel’s Kerry Ehrin, who will serve as showrunner on its Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston morning-show drama.
For Hulu, the question has been not just with whom it would align but how it would go about competing against its deep-pocketed rivals. The streamer — which is jointly owned by Disney, NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner — has historically not pushed for ownership of its originals, in part because it does not operate a studio, and also because the domestic-only service does not need to retain international rights to a project. With a $2.5 billion content budget that matches its U.S.-only domain, Hulu is also less likely to be competitive in a situation where it is going head-to-head with the likes of Netflix, which can offer a heavy hitter like Murphy access to a global audience of 125 million and the opportunity to try his hand at films, documentaries and specials — genres Hulu has expanded into at a slower pace.
Content chief Joel Stillerman recently acknowledged some of Hulu’s disadvantages in the talent race as part of a wide-ranging interview for THR’s April 25 cover story on the streamer, revealing that “there are a couple of things percolating” when it comes to talent deals. “Maybe they look more like non-exclusive, first-look [deals],” he added. “But we talk about it because, like everybody, if you’re in the content business, you are in the talent business. For us to not be thinking about it would, I think, be a little negligent.”
In Miller’s case, Hulu has aligned with MGM TV to serve as the studio on projects that come out of the development deal. In addition to working together on Handmaid’s Tale, Miller and MGM’s Stark also previously collaborated as producers on Medium.
Miller is repped by ICM Partners and Jamie Mandelbaum of Jackoway Tyerman.
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