When you hear the letters “ABC,” what do you think of?
The hit Jackson 5 song? Honestly, that’s where my mind goes, because it’s easy as one, two, three.
Or of course, your mind might have continued with, “D, e, f, etc.”.
Yes Urkel, you did that. Every time.
ABC has been doing well recently. Eight of the top 20 highest-rated scripted shows last season were on ABC. Several of those shows came from Shondaland, the production company belonging to uberproducer Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes rose to prominence in the mid-2000s, when her show “Grey’s Anatomy” became a surprise smash for the network. Despite having finished its 13th season, “Anatomy” is *still* one of the highest-rated shows on television.
And speaking of scandal, Rhimes has created one of her own in real life, at least from the perspective of ABC. On Sunday, August 13, Shonda Rhimes announced she would be working with Netflix going forward.
Before we get any further, let’s make it perfectly clear: this does *not* mean that “Anatomy,” “Murder,” and “Scandal” are all canceled for next season.
Such a mass cancellation would probably cause the biggest television related uproar since the whole Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno fiasco at the beginning of the decade.
Having said that, those shows will be the vestigial remains of Rhimes’ relationship with ABC, and this was set to be “Scandal’s” last season anyway.
Not all of the details of the deal that Rhimes signed with Netflix are clear, and it’s possible that they haven’t even been finalized yet. Early reports suggest that Rhimes will earn $10 million a year over the course of four years.
Of course, this deals means that Netflix not only gets the talents of Rhimes herself, but of her Shondaland infrastructure as well. This means that Netflix will not only have exclusive rights to Rhimes’ shows, but the shows her company shepherds. An example of such a show would be “How to Get with Murder,” a Shondaland production that is actually the brainchild of Peter Nowalk.
What This Means for Rhimes
Rhimes has a long relationship with ABC. It dates back to 2005, when “Anatomy” premiered. Before her time at ABC, the most prestigious creative credit on Rhimes’ resume was a writing credit on the sequel for “The Princess Diaries.”
That film series revolves around a woman who unexpectedly becomes royalty. In hindsight, that somewhat reflects Rhimes’ career, just with less mattress-surfing by Julie Andrews.
Eat your heart out, “Sound of Music.”
Rhimes has not only been a creative force for ABC for the last 13 years – it’s arguable that she has been *the* creative force for ABC during that timespan.
While ABC has been home to a few non-Rhimes shows for the last decade, it’s clear that she’s been crucial for the network. ABC has used her brand in their marketing for the past few years, and it’s pretty rare for producers to be incorporated that way.
However, rumors suggest Rhimes was getting restless at ABC, often expressing frustration that she didn’t have the same creative freedom many of her contemporaries were allowed. Working on broadcast TV indeed comes with its inherent shackles.
And at Netflix, there’s no reason to believe she won’t find the freedom she’s been craving. The combination of her creative freedom and Netflix’s unique business model should prove to be fruitful for both parties. Speaking of…
What This Means for Netflix
Netflix looks to be a big winner here.
First, there’s the fact that Rhimes’ track record is immaculate. Should she bring the same kind of addicting programming to Netflix that she made her name with on ABC, Netflix should see a return-on-investment quickly.
But the win here expands beyond on a financial context. It’s a symbolic victory as well.
Netflix only started participating in the original content sector a few years ago when they premiered “House of Cards” in 2013. But even in that short timeframe, Netflix has swiftly asserted itself as a major player within that sector. Shows like “Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “Stranger Things” have become critical, audience, and award show favorites.
And Netflix isn’t the only streaming service in the original programming game. Netflix inspired both Hulu and Amazon Prime to integrate original content into their respective platforms, and both have done so to varying degrees of success.
All of this is to say that streaming can no longer be ignored, and Rhimes’ move to Netflix is yet another indicator that streaming services are now leaders in television programming. This is especially true when you consider that Chuck Lorre, the mastermind behind ratings blockbusters like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” has two shows on slate for Netflix.
Most deals in Hollywood aren’t really worth mentioning. This deal, however, signifies more than financial gains for both Netflix and Rhimes. It’s a reflection of where the television industry is and where it is heading.
The content arms race is underway. Right now, there’s not a clear winner. Except, of course, for the television-watching public.