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The new pact with Rhimes (Bridgerton, Grey’s Anatomy) and her company, Shondaland, will encompass such things as feature films, virtual reality content and gaming in addition to the numerous series Shondaland is already making for Netflix. The current deal includes a branding and merchandising deal for Shondaland Media content, while the expanded pact will also include live events and experiences, which have been a growing part of the showrunner-turned-mogul‘s business.
“When Ted [Sarandos] and I decided to break the traditional network TV business model to move Shondaland to Netflix, we were both taking a leap into the unknown,” said Rhimes in a statement Thursday. “Today, Shondaland at Netflix is creatively thriving, profitable as an asset and engaging audiences around the world with stories that fearlessly challenge viewers and keep them highly entertained all at once.”
While it took Rhimes time to get accustomed to the streaming platform and its unique culture, which was admittedly a bumpy process, she debuted her first scripted series, Bridgerton, this past December and it very quickly became one of Netflix’s most-watched shows ever. In short order, the streamer, which is eager to build a franchise library, renewed the series for multiple seasons and announced it would launch a spinoff, focused on the character Queen Charlotte. Looking ahead, Rhimes will roll out the limited series Inventing Anna, centered on the con artist Anna Sorokin, which is the first project Rhimes has created, written and run since Scandal hit years ago. (Also worth noting: her first creation, long-running ABC series Grey’s Anatomy, is consistently among the most watched acquired titles on Netflix.)
“Shonda makes shows that get the world talking, and we’ve seen the power of her creative vision to translate in any language. Shonda’s a brilliant businesswoman and a terrific partner and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with her for years to come,” said Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s recently upped head of global TV, who also praised Rhimes’ commitment to inclusion. As part of the new pact, the streamer will invest in financial and technical infrastructure to support Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers’ mission to create diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility programs to increase the ranks of traditionally underrepresented groups in the industry, both in the United States and the U.K.
The expanded deal comes as Netflix is increasingly eager to own all parts of the entertainment experience, from your eyeballs to your pocketbook. In Rhimes’ case, this means many parts of her company’s output will now move in-house at Netflix. So, as the prolific creative dabbles again in film — which, notably, is where she began her career, writing HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Crossroads and The Princess Diaries 2 — and moves further into areas like VR and live events, such efforts will be done through the streamer. Presumably her growing slate of podcasts, which she’s already launched through a partnership with iHeartMedia, is excluded from the latest deal, though Netflix brass would likely be eager to control those too. (Prior to exiting his deal, Kenya Barris had attempted to ink a podcasting deal with Spotify, only to have Netflix kill it.)
With Rhimes — the first major showrunner to defect from Disney half a decade ago — re-upping at the streamer, all eyes will now move to Ryan Murphy, who was only some six months behind her. While Murphy’s output has been considerably greater, he’s yet to release a series for the service that’s captured the global zeitgeist in the way that Rhimes’ Bridgerton has. Netflix, too, has gone through considerable change, both in terms of its executive roster and its programming lineup. Barris, who became the first nine-figure producer to defect from Netflix, recently likened the streamer to broadcast network CBS in its desire for down-the-middle hits.
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