It’s difficult to deny that Netflix has made quite an impact on the world of television in the past few years, pumping out critically acclaimed series like Stranger Things and House of Cards. That’s largely thanks to the freedom and funding it gives to its creators, with an ethos to make good television above all else.
However, that ethos is starting to land Netflix in financial trouble, with a report from the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the company could be in debt by as much as $20 billion. What’s more, Disney recently announced plans to pull all of its movies from Netflix by the end of 2019, with further reports suggesting that Fox plans to pull its animated series from the service.
That said, a saving grace came for Netflix on Monday with the confirmation that it had poached veteran television producer Shonda Rhimes.
Rhimes, whose biggest hits include Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, has produced television exclusively for ABC for the last 15 years. However, according to Polygon, an exclusive new deal with the veteran producer means that all of Rhimes’ new series going forward will fall under the Netflix Original banner, available only on the streaming platform.
“Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” Netflix’s Ted Sarandos said in a statement. “Her work is gripping, inventive, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, taboo-breaking television at its best. I’ve gotten the chance to know Shonda and she’s a true Netflixer at heart.”
Rhimes’ flip from ABC to Netflix is undeniably a big win for the streaming service, but it also shows that Netflix is now serious about actually making money.
The producer is responsible for creating some of ABC’s biggest shows, and in turn, bringing in substantial revenue for the network. In fact, some of Rhimes’ biggest hits, including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder are already available on Netflix and consistently sit at the top of its most popular content lists.
Netflix may have received widespread critical acclaim for the millions of dollars it has spent per episode to create prestigious series like Sense8 or House of Cards, but the fact of the matter is, many Netflix Originals just don’t have the same widespread appeal as the shows that Shonda Rhimes has been creating for ABC for over 15 years.
In poaching Rhimes, Netflix is making a clear statement that whilst high-quality niche content still remains a priority, the streaming service is ready to start appealing to a wider audience with its content, which should, in turn, generate some of the same levels of revenue seen by traditional television networks like ABC.
As aforementioned, Netflix was dealt a major blow recently with Disney’s announcement that it plans to pull its content from the platform by the end of 2019. However, Netflix’s poaching of Shonda Rhimes is an equally major blow for Disney, which owns Rhimes’ current home, ABC. In losing some of the biggest titles from its movie catalog, whilst promising more television series — which will include A-list actors – Netflix is now making its focus very clear: original television.
There will, of course, be many Netflix viewers concerned that its new partnership with a major network producer means that the streaming service plans to play it more safely when it comes to original content going forward. However, the widespread appeal of Rhimes’ shows and the subsequent money they should bring to Netflix means that the streaming provider will be able to continue catering to niche audiences, all whilst reaping in the profits that are currently only seen by broadcast television networks.
Shonda Rhimes’ departure is a huge loss for ABC and a massive gain for Netflix. But more importantly, it shows that the streaming service is finally serious about making money.
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