Disney took aim at Netflix with its bid to buy 21st Century Fox. The proposed $52 billion deal would give Disney—which made a record $6 billion at the global box office two years in a row—even more top TV shows and movies, as well as access to talent, at a time when it is pulling films from the streaming service and planning its own rival offering.
But the uncertainty surrounding the deal also opened the door for Netflix and Amazon to strike back—and woo some of Fox’s top creators away.
Netflix and Amazon have been signing more TV and movie hitmakers to their services to reduce their reliance on outside studios. Netflix recently inked a deal with Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and Amazon landed The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.
Ryan Murphy, the showrunner behind Glee, Feud, American Horror Story, and American Crime Story, is the next TV creator in play. His contract with Fox is up in mid-2018, and industry insiders had expected him to renew it. But he’s seriously considering a move to a rival like Netflix or Amazon in light of the Disney-Fox deal, people familiar with the talks told Bloomberg. The streaming services and at least two other parties are courting the producer, the publication reported.
Murphy has close relationships with Fox executives Dana Walden—co-head of Fox’s TV studio—and FX Networks boss John Landgraf. But their futures are up in the air, given the deal, which has reportedly made Murphy more willing to entertain other offers
Netflix has a relationship with the producer, too. It bought his next series Ratched, about the nefarious nurse from the novel One Fell Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, this year.
Not every creator is necessarily looking make moves because of the Disney-Fox deal. Some, like Ridley Scott, may see opportunity in Disney’s distribution machine. The filmmaker, whose Alien movies are distributed by movie studio 20th Century Fox, said recently that he thinks the franchise should be as big as Star Wars or Star Trek. Under the Disney umbrella, that’s a distinct possibility.
Winning a producer like Murphy won’t be cheap. Experienced showrunners are in high demand right now. They command top dollar, not only from traditional TV networks and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, but new TV entrants like Apple and Facebook.
Netflix is estimated to have shelled out more than $100 million to lure Rhimes away from ABC. The streaming service also paid
buy comic creator Mark Millar’s Millarworld
. Murphy reportedly wants a deal on that scale or higher to jump ship.
Money doesn’t scare Netflix or Amazon. The latter recently spent around $200 million on the TV rights to Lord of the Rings. Its car show, The Grand Tour, had a comparable price tag. Jeff Bezos, who wants more genre shows with broad appeals like Game of Thrones, is willing to spend big to establish Amazon in the video space.
Time will tell if the money, and the creative freedom offered by streaming companies, will be enough to sway a producer like Murphy away.