Shonda Rhimes, one of the most accomplished and revered producers in television, is making a switch from ABC to Netflix. And the timing appears to reflect a growing trend within industry.
For its ninth annual awards program, the African American Film Critics Association proclaimed 2017 the “year of the woman in cinema.”
“There is no argument that women have made a bold step forward this year in Hollywood,” said AAFCA president Gil Robertson. “The evidence demonstrated during the past year speaks for itself both in terms of box office and critical recognition by women, and we predict that there will be continued momentum going forward. We are also pleased that African American women are a part of this progress and are taking advantage of increased opportunities to make their cinematic imprint.”
Filmmakers like Dee Rees and Ava DuVernay have already made considerable waves this year. Netflix acquired Rees’ “Mudbound” out of Sundance for $12.5 million and set it on a crash course for Oscar season, while DuVernay’s “13th” (also a Netflix title) picked up an Oscar nomination and an Emmy this year.
“Women wrote, produced, and directed some of the year’s most compelling, provocative, and culturally relevant movies,” AAFCA co-founder Shawn Edwards said. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women have a permanent place at the table with equal representation.”
Right now the Shondaland production company is affiliated with ABC Studios. But Rhimes and her producing partner Betsy Beers will move their operation to Netflix, where they will develop “new series and other projects,” according to an overnight announcement by Netflix.
Rhimes’ biggest shows — “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” — already stream on Netflix in various parts of the world after premiering on ABC.
Rhimes said in a statement that she was looking for an “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.” She said “the future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities.”
Netflix is likely paying an obscene amount of money to acquire Shondaland. But the terms of the multi-year deal haven’t been disclosed.
“What’s great about Netflix is that everything is kind of instantaneous and it goes around the world instantly,” Rhimes explained during an interview with TechCrunch. “Everything is released at once. The format can be a little bit whatever you want.”
Rhimes’ existing hit shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” will keep airing on ABC. But she will develop new shows exclusively for the streaming service.
The 47-year-old writer and executive producer says Netflix offers the tantalizing opportunity to experiment with new concepts creatively beyond the “soapy, twist-heavy dramas” that she’s recognized for — a trademark she suggested was partly due to the constraints imposed by network television, Yahoo reports. She also says Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos saw eye-to-eye on the kinds of content she’d like to develop moving forward.