Netflix spent a lot of money on hitmakers like Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes. Were the mega deals worth it?

Prolific producer Ryan Murphy handed Netflix its first certified hit hands down with the bizarre title “Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” which generated 701 million hours of self-reported global viewership in its first three weeks. The only problem is that this smash hit comes just as Murphy’s 2018 overall deal with the streamer, worth up to $300 million, is due to expire next year. The moment highlights the mixed results Netflix has had after signing a wave of mega-deals with producers several years ago.

In its third week of release, “Dahmer” remains the No. 1 show on the streaming service and became the second most popular English-language series in Netflix history, with 701.4 million hours watched (behind only “Stranger Things 4,” which has clocked 1.35 billion hours of viewing).

The contract that prompted Murphy’s envy came a year after Netflix lured ABC streaming queen Shonda Rhimes for a $100 million deal and then extended it into 2021 (with a hefty raise). The streamer then signed “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris’ multi-year deal for nine figures, horror maestro Mike Flanagan and “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and DB Weiss horror maestro Mike Flanagan ( the latter for $200 million). But despite the high-profile deals, the results so far have been as lopsided as Netflix’s share price.

Let’s start with Murphy, whose most successful Netflix original before “Dahmer” was 2020’s “Ratched,” which Netflix says was watched by 48 million member accounts in its first four weeks. This fell out of the streamer’s Top 10 as of July 2021 before the company adopted hours watched as its primary metric in October 2021. Murphy’s other Netflix work: the “Hollywood” and “Halston” miniseries, as well as the two-season series “The Politician.” ” – were met with mixed to negative reviews. In a case where silence speaks volumes, Netflix did not release any viewership data for those three series. (Translation: They probably had nothing to brag about.)

Outside of “Dahmer,” which is already in the top five most-demanded original series on Netflix in the US as of 2019, according to Parrot Analytics, none of Murphy’s TV series for Netflix are in the top 100 most-demanded series. of the platform. in that period. (Parrot Analytics analyzes social media, fan ratings, and piracy data to represent audience demand, which reflects expressed desire and engagement for a title within a given market.) And none match the popularity or endurance of Murphy’s FX series “American Horror Story,” which remains a popular licensed title for the streamer.

US demand for new Netflix original series releases in the first 30 days of this year averaged 2.86x, which Murphy’s shows consistently outperformed. But while there are always various metrics of success to consider in terms of viewership, quality, awards and representation, no TV studio is in the business of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on content that struggles to make big profits. (Murphy’s features for the platform, “The Prom” and “The Boys in the Band,” have fared slightly better, though neither have made the streamer’s all-time charts.)

The 10 most requested Netflix originals in the US from January 1, 2019 to September 1. 30, 2022

Barris’s projects were similarly underwhelming, with the producer ending up exiting his Netflix deal mid-run after delivering well-received but niche series “#blackAF” and “Astronomy Club.” His last executive producing credit for the streamer, Kid Cudi’s animated “Entergalactic,” trended in the Top 10 in a single region in its opening weekend, according to FlixPatrol, while racking up just 2.92 times the show’s US demand. average for the last week. As one Netflix executive put it when reports of a possible split with Barris began to surface: “The idea of ​​doing more prestige shows that no one knows is going on is not interesting.”

Simply put, studios don’t tend to let creators end contracts early if their content connects with viewers and subscribers.

Meanwhile, Benioff and Weiss’s criminally underrated Sandra Oh drama “The Chair” (only 5.4 times the demand for the average show in the US) is off and won’t be getting a second season, according to star Sandra Oh. The duo’s film” Metal Lords,” which premiered on the channel last April, isn’t even in the top 10 most-requested Netflix original movies so far this year.

The 10 most in-demand Netflix original movies in the US to date.

At a time when Netflix’s financial health is under intense scrutiny, these hugely expensive deals have failed to generate the necessary audience, demand and accolades that would justify their cost.

However, Netflix hasn’t caught up with each of its big money swings.

Both seasons of Rhimes’s lusty “Bridgerton” as well as its 2022 limited series “Inventing Anna” are among Netflix’s most-watched English-language series of all time in terms of global hours watched in the first 28 days, while that audience demand ranged from “Outstanding” to “Exceptional” in its first four weeks, according to Parrot Analytics. Additionally, there is long-running demand for its ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy” (still streaming on Netflix), “Scandal” (removed from Netflix for Hulu in May 2020) and “How to Get Away With Murder” (still streaming on Netflix) His portfolio of work (original and licensed titles) has been immensely valuable to the streamer as acquisition and retention tool.

US public demand for Grey’s Anatomy, Bridgerton, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal and Inventing Anna (April 1, 2015 – September 29, 2022)

Flanagan also delivered on Netflix (although we don’t have a reported dollar value on his deal) as his production volume, both before and after his overall deal, consistently resonates with audiences. The 2018 horror miniseries “The Haunting of Hill House” (23.09x the demand for the average US show in its first month of availability), its 2020 sequel “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (19, 08x) and “Midnight” from last year. Mass” (12.64x) generated above-average audience demand.

“Midnight Mass” also added 142.2 million global hours viewed in its first month of release, which is roughly on par with recent hits like “Echoes” and “Peaky Blinders” Season 6 (we don’t have hours-viewed data for “Hill House” or “Bly Manor”). These follow Flanagan’s well-received streaming movies like 2017’s “Gerald’s Game” (21.33 times the demand for the average movie in the US in its first four weeks).

If Rhimes is Netflix’s home run hitter, then Flanagan is the ever-reliable base hitter.

Thanks to Wall Street’s drastic shift in the streaming business model and a worrying slowdown in growth, Netflix has lost $200 million in company value in the past 11 months and suffered back-to-back quarterly subscriber losses for the first time as an original. content provider.

Five years ago, the company was still something of an entertainment outsider that wanted (needed?) to boldly announce to Hollywood that it was going to spend whatever it took to attract high-profile talent and develop a library of original content worth the money. grief. However, buyer’s remorse may have partially fueled a hierarchical shake-up in late 2020 that saw new global TV boss Bela Bajaria put Netflix’s blanket deals business under Brian Wright to get more value from all those deals deals. nine figures (Wright later left the company in June 2021).

The message was clear even if Netflix didn’t say it out loud: Paying exorbitant fees to creators wasn’t working. That reality has only become starker now that money is tight.

'Dahmer' Surpasses 'Bridgerton' As Netflix's 2nd Most Popular English-Language Show Of All Time

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