Home / Action Plan / Netflix Bags Another TV Trophy, And Outplays Rivals, By Luring Ryan Murphy Away From Broadcast and Cable

Netflix Bags Another TV Trophy, And Outplays Rivals, By Luring Ryan Murphy Away From Broadcast and Cable


Netflix nabbed another one. The digital service’s five-year, $300 million deal with uber producer Ryan Murphy once again sends a shock wave straight to the traditional TV ecosystem. Murphy leaves his longtime home at 20th Century Fox TV, where his contract was set to expire in July.

It’s a reminder to broadcast and cable networks alike that even if they cultivate A-plus talent, those superstar producers will eventually head to greener streamer pastures.

At the same time, it’s no longer a surprise. Murphy, after all, follows Shonda Rhimes, the “Grey’s Anatomy” executive producer whose Shondaland brand was too valuable to remain inside a traditional company. Rhimes signed a rich deal last fall to join Netflix after 15 years at Disney/ABC.

And it’s also another aggressive play by Netflix to secure, in Rhimes and Murphy, two producers whom might have otherwise been producing new hit shows for Disney’s planned rival streaming service.

“Ryan Murphy’s series have influenced the global cultural zeitgeist, reinvented genres and changed the course of television history,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “We’ve seen how his brand of storytelling captivates consumers and critics across the globe.”

A Murphy move seemed unlikely just a few months ago, as he has long enjoyed a fruitful relationship with 20th — and in particular, a partnership with Fox Entertainment chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman. But Disney’s announced acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s filmed assets threw that all up in the air, leaving it uncertain whom he’d be working for had he renewed his deal there. The recent news that Comcast might still make a play for the Fox studio and cable network assets further added a level of instability.

Meanwhile, there had been speculation that Walden and Murphy might launch a new production company together, in the model of Carsey-Werner. When asked about his future at the Television Critics Association press tour in January, Murphy appeared to already have one foot out the door.

“I had been surrounded since 2003 at Fox with an incredible group of executives who have always allowed me to sort of follow my interest and passions, and they believed in me,” he told reporters then. “Three months ago, I thought I would literally be buried on the Fox lot. I had my mausoleum picked out and I was just ready to just commit… I was very not prepared for what happened.”

Murphy said he point blank told Disney boss Bob Iger that he was concerned about having to put Mickey Mouse in “American Horror Story” — in other words, tone down his edgy content for a more family-oriented company. He said Iger assured him that Disney was interested in the studio specifically because of its brands, like the shows Murphy produces for FX.

“I’m sort of interested to see what that company is going to look like before I make any decisions about where I’m going to go,” he said. It’s unclear what made him decide to make a move sooner. “I think that I’ve just decided to wait and sit back and talk to my friends, who are my bosses, and see what’s happening with them and then make a decision once we sort of know what’s happening.”

If Murphy didn’t make the transition with 20th to Disney, Netflix was seen like the other likely home. He’s already in business with the streamer, producing the upcoming series “Ratched” and “The Politician” for the service through his current deal with 20th Century Fox TV. (Also, per Sarandos, Murphy’s FX drama “Nip/Tuck” was the online service’s first licensed series.)

Like Rhimes, who continues to work on her pre-existing ABC series, Murphy will continue to be involved on his existing 20th shows — including new Fox hit “9-1-1,” as well as the FX anthologies “American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story” and “Feud,” as well as the new “Pose.”

Going forward, Murphy will be exclusively producing new series and films for Netflix starting in July.

“The history of this moment is not lost on me,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am a gay kid from Indiana who moved to Hollywood in 1989 with $55 dollars in savings in my pocket, so the fact that my dreams have crystallized and come true in such a major way is emotional and overwhelming to me.”

But this has to sting a bit for FX boss John Landgraf, who has vocalized a concern that Netflix is building too much of its own ecosystem, which might eventually crowd out the traditional marketplace. Murphy was a reliable source for some of FX’s biggest shows — and with Louis C.K. now out of the picture, that makes two signature TV creators that FX will no longer be working with to develop new projects.

Asked last month at the TV Critics press tour what he would do if he lost Murphy so soon after C.K., Landgraf said FX would continue to cultivate new talent.

“The nature of what we do is make extraordinarily deep and emotionally and financially and creatively enduring and real investments in talent,” Landgraf said. “Some will come and some will go. But of you really reflect on the 15-year legacy of FX, we have not been a business or a channel that’s bought developed or established talent, gone out into the marketplace with a massive checkbook and bought established talent. We’re a place where people have come to make their first show or their first successful show over and over and over again.”

The migration to streaming isn’t just a talent issue. Last week, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke (who coincidentally worked closely with Murphy in her previous job as executive vice president at 20th Century Fox TV) announced that she would take the job as head of Amazon Studios.

Although there are hundreds of shows now on TV, run by hundreds of showrunners, “there are five to eight franchise players that you can really build around,” noted one agent. Like an assassin charged with taking out the traditional TV model, Netflix keeps marking names off its list.

Check Also

‘Black Panther’ Scorches Box Office Records, Sets the Bar for 2018 and Beyond


Marvel’s “Black Panther” (Disney) arrived with a record-breaking bang at the 2018 box office, outperforming pre-opening estimates for its three day U.S./Canada opening.

Check out its all-time records: “Black Panther” bests “Deadpool” by more than $50 million as the best February and pre-March opening weekends ever. It tops last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” as the best pre-May debut of all time. It nearly doubles “Furious 7” as the best opening for a black-directed film. It is triple the best previous record (held by “Straight Outta Compton”) for initial weekend of a film with a primarily black cast.

Those numbers will be re-counted when Sunday’s actual numbers are reported, plus the boost the movie will get from a four-day semi-holiday on Monday. And adjusting to an even playing field still leaves “Black Panther” remarkably (considering the month of release) among the ten best openers ever.

“Black Panther”

Ryan Coogler’s breakout film “Fruitvale Station” did well in limited release and commercial sequel “Creed” marked a decent wide release. But “Black Panther”‘s grosses are seismic and game-changing for the director. The movie is the biggest non-“Star Wars” opener since “Jurassic World” (with a prime June release date) nearly three years ago. Yes, “Black Panther” comes from within the lucrative comic book universe of adaptations, but by those high standards it ranks #4 (adjusted) after both “Avengers” films and “Spider-Man 3.”

There have been 13 Marvel or D.C. Comic book releases since “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened to (an adjusted) $204 million in May, 2015. A majority have opened over $100 million (including similar game-changer “Wonder Woman.” But no comic book movie since (the best off-season opener “Batman v. Superman” opened to an adjusted $178 million, “Deadpool” $141 million), despite showcasing a who’s who of comic world characters (“Thor,” “X-Men,” “Spider-Man” and the ensemble in “Suicide Squad”) boasted the appeal of this long-overdue all-black cast of heroes and villains starring in an African myth.

The huge initial interest that propelled many fans to Thursday night and Friday shows likely account for a Saturday decline somewhat above some other recent Marvel and D.C. titles. The falloff was 13 per cent (from a higher starting point from most others) for its second full day from the initial totals. “Thor: Ragnarok” dropped  five per cent, “Wonder Woman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” eight per cent.

But “The Avengers” also boasted an A+ CInemascore and dropped slightly more (14 per cent) on its initial Saturday on its way to a domestic total that was triple its opening (adjusted, its domestic total was just over $700 million).

Can “Black Panther” repeat that kind of long-term performance? There’s no way to judge after two days. The four-day totals will give a hint, but next weekend will be more key to assessing the future.

But even a standard ultimate showing (which would leave this somewhere around $500 million domestic – about 25 per cent above “Wonder Woman”) would change the rules about what American moviegoers want to see. “Black Panther” will elevate a wider range of stories, including Hollywood’s core big-budget action adventures. Yes, there has been a steady supply of black-centered releases going back to blaxploitation in the 1970s, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy lead the way in the 1980s and so on. But these often have come with non-minority creative control, and usually with lower budgets and compensation for many principles based on perceived economics.

"Black Panther"

“Black Panther”

The main excuse for not green-lighting similar films with the $300 million plus production and marketing costs expended on “Black Panther” is the resistance seen historically to black-centered films overseas. The foreign market for top-end productions (though not the “Star Wars” series) is expected to provide roughly two-thirds of the total gross for high end films. “Panther” debuted in a majority of the world, though not the key territories of China, Japan, or Russia yet.

The gross for these initial territories came in a little less than the domestic return ($169 million). What happens in the remainder of them will be important. But it would be reasonable at this point to anticipate at least $400 million overseas, along with at least that much (low end total) domestic. That would put the film at over $800 million worldwide. That total wouldn’t have placed it quite in the global Top Ten for 2017 (it would be about the same as the most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which soared overseas and was similarly expensive). “Wonder Woman” did $812 million combined, with a similar domestic/foreign split. And it’s good enough, to put it mildly, even if the domestic share is higher than usual. It just might take longer for foreign to catch up.

The performance boosted year-to-date numbers, which had fallen below 2017 so far, to a boost of over five per cent (by the time different week day calendars balance out by midweek). “Panther” made up about two thirds of ticket sales (a lower total that the better than 75 per cent share “The Last Jedi” took in its pre-Christmas weekend.)

Early Man

Drowned out by the film was Nick Park’s Aardman animation “Early Man” (Lionsgate), which could only take in an anemic $3,150,000. It was hurt among kids by the draw of the second weekend of the less sophisticated “Peter Rabbit” (Sony), which managed as decent $17,500,000 and a 31 per cent drop.

“Fifty Shades Freed” (Universal), last week’s #1, dropped 56 per cent to fall behind “Early Man” slightly. Buried among the figures during the week though was the film’s dominance on Wednesday (Valentine’s Day). It grossed nearly $11 million, more than half of the day’s business as the clear film of choice to drag men to that night.

Long-running hits “Jumanji: Welcome to the Club” (Sony) and “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox) both dropped around 20 per cent, a bit above their recent average but both amazing holds for films around since Christmas. But they needed company going forward, assuming that “Panther” has decent legs, since they can’t be expected to sustain theaters that much longer.

“Early Man”

The Top Ten

1. Black Panther (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: A+; Metacritic: 88; Est. budget: $200 million

$192,023,000 in 4,020 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $47,767,000; Cumulative: $192,023,000

2. Peter Rabbit (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend: #2

$17,250,000 (-31%) in 3,725 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,631; Cumulative: $48,223,000

3. Fifty Shades Freed (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend: #1

$16,940,000 (-56%) in 3,768 theaters (no change); PTA: $4,496; Cumulative: $76,134,000

4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony) Week 9; Last weekend: #

$7,945,000 (-21%) in 2,800 theaters (-336); PTA: $2,838; Cumulative: $377,624,000

5. 15:17 to Paris (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend: #

$7,685,000 (-39%) in 3,042 theaters (no change); PTA: $2,526; Cumulative: $25,433,000

6. The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox) Week 9; Last weekend: #5

$5,100,000 (-21%) in 1,936 theaters (-437); PTA: $2,634; Cumulative: $154,478,000

7. Early Man (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 68; Est. budget: $50 million

$3,150,000 in 2,494 theaters; PTA: $1,263; Cumulative: $3,150,000

8. Maze Runner: The Death Cure (20th Century Fox) Week 4; Last weekend: #6

$2,525,000 (-59%) in 1,891 theaters (-1,032); PTA: $1,335; Cumulative: $54,005,000

9. Winchester (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend: #7

$2,230,000 (-57%) in 1,471 theaters (-1,001); PTA: $1,508; Cumulative: $21,860,000

10. Samson (Pureflix) NEW – Metacritic: 17; no budget estimate reported

$1,972,000 in 1,249 theaters; PTA: $1,579; Cumulative: $1,972,000

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *