Net­flix poaches Glee cre­ator

Stream­ing gi­ant makes big-ticket deal for Ryan Mur­phy

Ottawa Sun - - SHOWBIZ - — Bloomberg

Net­flix signed Ryan Mur­phy, cre­ator of hits such as Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story and Glee, to a con­tract to make se­ries and films, wrest­ing him away from 21st Cen­tury Fox Inc. in a dra­matic re­order­ing of the TV busi­ness.

Mur­phy and his pro­duc­tion com­pany will get $300 mil­lion over five years, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. He fol­lows Shonda Rhimes, the for­mer ABC megapro­ducer be­hind Grey’s Anatomy and Scan­dal, and Mark Mil­lar, the comic-book wun­derkind, on a rapidly ex­pand­ing ros­ter of cre­ative tal­ent Net­flix is open­ing its wal­let to as­sem­ble.

The Mur­phy deal is likely to add more pres­sure on Fox and its deal part­ner Walt Dis­ney Co., which had both been lob­by­ing to re­tain him, to show they have the right strat­egy to fend off their big-spend­ing ri­val from Sil­i­con Val­ley. The fi­nan­cial terms of Mur­phy’s con­tract are also likely to add to the cho­rus of Net­flix skep­tics who ar­gue the com­pany’s $8 bil­lion-a-year pro­gram­ming bud­get isn’t sus­tain­able over the long term.

Mur­phy, 52, had been ex­pected to re-sign with Fox but be­gan to wa­ver af­ter the com­pany agreed to sell much of its en­ter­tain­ment as­sets to Dis­ney in a $52.4 bil­lion deal, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told Bloomberg in De­cem­ber. Dis­ney Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Bob Iger per­son­ally called Mur­phy af­ter the ac­qui­si­tion was an­nounced to as­sure him the fam­ily-friendly home of Mickey Mouse wanted the kind of edgy pro­gram­ming Mur­phy pro­duces, Mur­phy said last month.

But the Dis­ney deal em­bold­ened Net­flix, Ama­ and at least two other par­ties to pur­sue Mur­phy, the peo­ple said.

Net­flix will burn through about $4 bil­lion cash this year, and plans to in­crease its bor­row­ing, in a quest to rapidly as­sem­ble a con­sis­tently fresh li­brary of pro­gram­ming to keep its 117.6 mil­lion sub­scribers hap­pily pay­ing. Dis­ney and other com­pa­nies are busy pulling their pro­gram­ming off of Net­flix to pro­vide their own stream­ing ser­vices, putting more pres­sure on the Los Gatos, Calif.based com­pany to come up with its own ma­te­rial.

Fox has been Mur­phy’s home for the past eight years and is where he has made al­most all of his big­gest hits. But the merger ma­nia over­tak­ing the me­dia in­dus­try, where Time Warner, Scripps Net­works In­ter­ac­tive and Starz agreed to sales in the past 18 months, is chang­ing the cal­cu­lus for top tal­ent in the in­dus­try, mak­ing Net­flix and Ama­zon look like rel­a­tively safe bets with their deep pock­ets and long-term com­mit­ments.

Rhimes is one of many pro­duc­ers and film­mak­ers who have re­ceived of­fers of tens of mil­lions of dol­lars from Net­flix and Ama­zon to stray from tra­di­tional TV. Ama­zon poached The Walk­ing Dead cre­ator Robert Kirkman from AMC, the net­work that airs the zom­bie show, while Net­flix has signed more ex­pan­sive deals with Stranger Things pro­ducer Shawn Levy and Or­ange is the New Black cre­ator Jenji Ko­han.

Rhimes left Dis­ney be­cause she craved cre­ative free­dom she couldn’t find at ABC, a broad­cast net­work that has to avoid some adult themes, grit­tier lan­guage and nu­dity be­cause of its broad au­di­ence and stan­dards for the use of pub­lic air­waves.

Fox also owns a broad­cast net­work and has FX, a ca­ble net­work renowned for dra­mas such as The Amer­i­cans and Le­gion. Mur­phy has earned four Emmy Awards and 26 nom­i­na­tions, com­pared with just three nom­i­na­tions and zero wins for Rhimes.

Re­cruit­ing Rhimes and Mur­phy could help Net­flix at­tain elu­sive Emmy wins of its own — or at least add to its li­brary of ex­clu­sive, buz­zwor­thy shows. Two Mur­phy-pro­duced pro­grams are al­ready on the way on the stream­ing ser­vice — a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest pre­quel called Ratched, and a com­edy se­ries, The Politi­cian. Mur­phy shows on Fox net­works, such as FX’s Amer­i­can Crime Story, will con­tinue on those chan­nels.

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