The last few months have seen a number of high-profile deals in episodic programming, spurred in part by the entry of a number of significant new players in the marketplace. Here are a few particularly noteworthy entries:
Apple is anticipated to become a major purchaser of entertainment content, and it made a splash with its first show announcement – a two-season order for a show starring and executive produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, set inside the cutthroat world of morning television.
Everyone is looking for the next “Game of Thrones and “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” in development at Showtime and based on Patrick Rothfuss’s acclaimed fantasy series, may be it. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is attached to executive produce, and will contribute music to the series – a key development as music is an important component of Rothfuss’s books.
Amazon’s announcement of a TV series based on “The Lord of the Rings” may be one of the biggest deals in television history, and underscores the importance of having a tentpole genre franchise for content licensees. Per Deadline, the rights payment alone is estimated in the $200 million to $250 million range, prior to any other costs.
Hulu’s acquisition of SVOD-window rights to breakout hit “This is Us” is an interesting deal. It allowed Hulu to keep all seasons of the show on its platform (whereas customarily Hulu only has current-season episodes), and it also kept the second window rights away from Netflix, which has been a big buyer of second window rights. As another recent network hit, “Riverdale” (which did sell to Netflix) has demonstrated, the availability of past seasons for viewers to “binge” can drive viewership for new episodes. This deal ensures that “This is Us” viewers can continue to find all episodes in one place.
This deal can in part be attributed to the success of “Riverdale” on Netflix during summer 2017. The new reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, based on the Archie Comic, was originally intended as a spinoff of Riverdale. Presumably based on viewership metrics for “Riverdale,” Netflix stepped in with a huge 20 episode, two season order. This deal again reiterates the power of genre (something Netflix knows very well between “Stranger Things” and “Black Mirror”) and demonstrates that buyers must now make major commitments to hot properties. It’s a long way from the traditional “order a pilot and let’s see” model of ordering TV shows.
2017 was the year that Netflix began canceling shows. “Gypsy,” and “Haters Back Off” were canceled after one and two seasons respectively, among other shows. However, Netflix has continued to show strong support to shows that are working on its platform. Sleeper hit “Dark,” Netflix’s first German original series, is the most recent example, and is poised to break out in a major way.