Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes & The Future of Netflix

Last week, the big red steaming giant struck another painful blow against Network Television. It was announced that Ryan Murphy was leaving his longtime home at Fox and he was moving on to Netflix. The deal is suggested to be in the $300 million. Murphy’s time at Fox, and it’s cable brother FX, has been as successful as it has been prolific. He has created ‘Glee’, ‘Scream Queens’ and current network megahit ‘9-1-1‘ for the Fox Network. All while turning FX into what was essentially a 3 creator network with him, Noah Hawley & Louis C.K. His hits for the cable company include ‘Nip/Tuck’ as well as the anthology series’ ‘American Horror Story’ & ‘Feud’. He also about to release the upcoming dance drama ‘Pose’ with them.

Perhaps the most important thing he has done is being instrumental in launching one of FX’s biggest shows in its history ‘The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’. The second season of that anthology series (covering the murder of Gianni Versace) is currently airing on FX. Ryan Murphy is an executive producer of ‘American Crime Story’ and has lent his talents to writing and directing episodes for the series.Let’s also not forget that the former home of Qwickster signed Shonda Rhimes to a reportedly $100+ million deal earlier this year. Two of network TVs most bankable and high profile names are moving on to new homes in streaming. The big question I have in regards to both of the stories is what does this mean for Netflix & what does this mean for traditional TV?Netflix (and Amazon & Hulu for that matter) haven’t been shy the past 5 years about opening the pocketbook and signing auteurs to make Television for them. David Fincher has a deal with the company and helped launch ‘Mind hunter’ & ‘Houses Of Cards’. They’ve paid for ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘The Killing’ to come back from the dead. They own foreign distribution rights on a ton of top tier television. It wasn’t until 2016 that we learned Netflix would actually cancel shows. Before that, it seemed like all that mattered was filling their customer’s desire for content, and it seemed they customers were never satiated.

2017 showed everyone that Netflix is no longer willing to give Baz Luhrman or the Wachowski’s unlimited money without seeing a return on viewership. They no longer accept that ‘Lady Dynamite’ was a critical darling, but that won’t save it from the axe. They will not longer be satisfied that ‘Bloodlines’ was a 5 time Emmy nominee (with 1 win for Ben Mendelsohn), after 3 seasons they had to acknowledge that it didn’t make financial sense any longer. So how can Netflix discover that they have a proverbial belt that needs to be tightened when it comes to musical’s about hip hop, but at the same time give two creators almost half a billion in development deals? I think the answer can be found in a little show that debuted in 2016 to little fanfare.‘Stranger Things’ is what this is about in my complete and total outsiders opinion. I think Netflix realizes that their algorithms are a big help, but left uncheck they’ll tell you ‘Bright’ is what the world is clamoring for. Emmy’s are pretty and look nice on shelves, but that’s only the half the battle. What Netflix wants more of is what ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Stranger Things 2’ gave them. Control over the culture. For a couple weekend’s last October, after we had spent the summer debating ‘Game of Thrones’ and right before we would become a divided nation on ‘The Last Jedi’, the events taking place in Hawkins, Indiana were at the center of pop culture. That’s what Netflix is hoping Murphy and Rhimes can deliver, and I think it’s a pretty solid bet.

Both of the creators have owned the culture before. Were times a little different back when they were each on top? sure. But when ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ first debuted and put a 2000’s coat of paint on the old ER foundation, it became the biggest show on television. It won Emmy’s, Golden Globes & SAG awards. It turned it’s actors into stars. At the start of the 2010’s ‘Glee’ was appointment viewing, and God help you if your DVR didn’t record. My girlfriend at the time gave iTunes at least $100 for cover versions of songs she already owned just because they were featured on the show. And last year, ‘American Crime Story’ became the oddest, most compelling show to come out in years. I never watch tv and I was checking in with FX every week.These creators both have gifts in understanding the monoculture. They have shown that they can own the water coolers across the country, and they did this with Network shows. When they move to the most ubiquitous entertainment entity in our world today with zero creative interference, I think the results will be noticeable. You might not love there shows and maybe you don’t have any interest in what they’ll do going forward, but i’m guessing you’ll have to binge them opening weekend if you want to have something to talk about on Monday.

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