Netflix and Amazon are stealing the minds behind your favorite TV shows

Making moves.
Making moves.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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One of the most prolific creators of contemporary TV is defecting to Netflix.

In an escalation of the war for Hollywood talent, streaming-video giant Netflix has poached Shonda Rhimes, the mind behind hit ABC series like Grey’s AnatomyScandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, out from under the Disney-owned TV network. Rhimes, her Shondaland production house, and producing partner Betsy Beers will now create new original series and other projects for the streaming service, Netflix announced yesterday.

Rhimes’s existing shows will remain at ABC, as will the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff series and upcoming legal drama For the People that Rhimes is currently developing with ABC Studios. Netflix will also continue to license Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder to stream in certain regions.

Rhimes’s ABC series have generated more than $2 billion in revenue from advertising, re-run sales, and international licensing, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall). So it’s easy to assume Netflix paid a pretty penny to lure her to its service, though the terms of the deal have not been released.

“Starting today, we are thrilled to begin creating new Shondaland stories with Netflix,” Rhimes said in a statement. “Everyone at Shondaland is honored to expand both our audience and our creative identity with Ted [Sarandos, chief content officer] and the entire team at Netflix.”

The move comes as Netflix works to reduce its reliance on other studios by producing more of its own programming. Last week, word came that Disney was ending its deal to license future films to Netflix, and launching a streaming competitor. Netflix’s shares slipped over concerns that other partners might pull their programming and start rival services, too.

Days earlier, Netflix shored up its superhero slate by buying Mark Millar’s comic-book publisher Millarworld—in effect securing its own mini Marvel. It also announced projects with Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and late-night legend David Letterman. And now we have the Rhimes deal.

Deep-pocketed streaming rival Amazon has trudged on traditional TV’s turf, too. Last week, it signed Robert Kirkman, who created AMC Network’s crown jewel The Walking Dead, and has co-creator or producer credits on at least three more AMC shows. He also adapted his comic book Outcast into a TV series for Cinemax. As part of the new deal to develop TV shows exclusively for Prime Video, Amazon Studios will get first look at future projects from Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment production house.

The pool of experienced showrunners in Hollywood is drying up as production booms. And Netflix and Amazon are locking down creators, as TV networks like FX have done in the past with folks like Louis CK and Donald Glover.

Both streaming services are vying for big names in front of and behind the camera. Netflix has landed actors like Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Naomi Watts, directors like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, David Ayer, and comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, while Amazon has secured projects like David O’Russell’s upcoming drama series starring Julianne Moore and Robert De Niro.