June 18, 2019
One of the reasons Netflix claims it doesn’t pursue live sports programming is fiscal common sense. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos argues he doesn’t want to become embroiled in vanity battles over escalating rights fees lavished by networks on MLB, the NBA and NFL for access.
Observers say that’s an odd reason, considering the SVOD pioneer has pushed content spending into the professional sports stratosphere. Netflix recently signed TV producers Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) and Shonda Rimes(“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”) to record-breaking content deals valued at $300 million and $100 million, respectively.
Warner Bros. TV shelled out a reported $400 million for producer Greg Berlanti (”Dawson’s Creek,” “You,” “Riverdale”).
And Apple inked deals with Oprah, Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg and Reese Witherspoon, among others.
Now, Warner’s corporate umbrella, WarnerMedia, is reportedly close to signing director J.J. Abrams (Star Wars, “Westworld”) to an exclusive deal worth $500 million. An amount pushed by losing suitors Apple, Comcast and Netflix, among others.
WarnerMedia is swinging for the fences in part because it is backed by telco parent AT&T’s mushrooming debt spending ($171 billion) seeking a creative backstop for a pending branded SVOD service as well as leverage against the November OTT launch of Disney+.
WarnerMedia also recently signed smaller deals with Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”) and is reportedly close to re-signing Chuck Lorre (“Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men”) to another long-term production deal.
“With more streaming services competing for available content, we expect more [production] consolidation [i.e. spending] to occur over the next few years,” Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note.