Netflix Pulls Off Major Coup, Landing ABC Showrunner Shonda Rhimes

Move seen as counterpunch to Disney's recent pulling of titles from streaming giant.

August 14, 2017 11:15 am
Netflix Poaches Shonda Rhimes From Disney-ABC
Producer Shonda Rhimes attends ABC's 'Scandal' 100th episode celebration at Fig & Olive on April 8, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Disney left Netflix in the lurch last week, announcing that it would be pulling titles from the streaming service and launching its own rival platform.

Did they think Netflix would just stand by idly?

In a major coup, the streaming giant has landed Disney-ABC showrunner heavyweight Shonda Rhimes, creator of television ratings powerhouses like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, in an exclusive, multi-year deal, per the Wall Street Journal. (Rhimes will continue being involved in the shows currently in development or on the air on ABC.)

In a statement excerpted by The New York Times, Rhimes praised Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos: “[He] provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix. He understood what I was looking for—the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation. The future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities.”

Rhimes is known for edgy dramas like Scandal, in which a high-powered lawyer has a torrid extramarital affair with a sitting president of the United States. Some of that “creative freedom” that she’ll have at Netflix will be the ability to include nudity and curse words on her shows now, as Netflix isn’t advertising supported.

The deal will also put less pressure on Rhimes to produce full-season orders of 18 to 24 episodes, as is standard on broadcast television these days (Netflix series have much shorter runs, all of which can be streamed at once.)

To date, Rhimes’ portfolio of shows has made ABC $2 billion.

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