As word spread on Tuesday night that Fox über-producer Ryan Murphy had been snatched up by Netflix to the tune of a five-year deal worth up to $300 million, everyone was obviously wondering: What’s going to happen to the best show on television, 9-1-1? Alright, that’s probably not what everyone was thinking—though for what it’s worth, don’t worry, 9-1-1 will continue to crash planes and behead pythons on Fox for at least one more season—but make no mistake, the Murphy deal is huge, game-changing news. And Netflix knows it.
“Ryan Murphy’s series have influenced the global cultural zeitgeist, reinvented genres, and changed the course of television history,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a press release. “His unfaltering dedication to excellence and to give voice to the underrepresented, to showcase a unique perspective or just to shock the hell out of us, permeates his genre-shattering work.”
Netflix bringing over the Fox stalwart to create content for its increasingly popular streaming service—once Murphy’s current contract with Fox expires in the summer—will have major implications for Netflix, Fox, Disney, and the industry at large. Here are just some of the implications of Murphy’s deal.
Netflix Is Dropping Barrels of Cash on TV’s Biggest Talents
In addition to scooping up Murphy, Netflix also snagged ABC’s Shonda Rhimes in August with a similar, relatively vague directive: create new stuff for us. Murphy and Rhimes are two of the most popular TV producers on the planet. Rhimes is responsible for the likes of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, while Murphy has overseen Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Feud, and most recently, 9-1-1.
Not all of these shows are Emmy darlings, but many of them are bona fide hits that punch well above their weight. And neither creator is a one-trick genre pony: between them, you’ve got soapy procedurals, anthology series, political dramas, and a musical. The combined efforts of these workhorses would probably be enough to warrant a separate streaming service in and of itself.
As it stands, Netflix has two of the medium’s biggest creators for the foreseeable future. The company is clearly prioritizing viewership numbers—even if it rarely discloses them publicly—and has recently upped the ante in cancelling original shows that don’t meet in-house standards. Ratings clearly matter, and with Rhimes and Murphy (and superfans of their work), good ratings are a very safe bet.
What’s wild to think about is Netflix may not be done acquiring talent. If the company wants an even larger share of the showrunner pot, it could try to lure someone like Michael Schur (The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) or Greg Berlanti (Riverdale, The Flash, Deception, Blindspot) next.
FX Takes Another Hit
FX chief executive John Landgraf has been one of Netflix’s most outspoken critics. He’s described the company’s rise as a monopoly that threatens the rest of the TV industry—and that was before it poached one of his biggest, longtime creators. Murphy has been working with FX for over a decade, starting with the medical drama Nip/Tuck in 2003, as the network transformed into a premier destination for Prestige TV.
Murphy’s current shows on FX—American Crime Story, American Horror Story, Feud, and the upcoming ’80s drama Pose—will remain at the network, but losing him hurts the network in the long term. Between Murphy and Louis C.K., who was dropped by FX after the comedian admitted culpability when five women accused him of sexual misconduct, the network has lost two of its most influential creators in the past six months.
FX isn’t exactly struggling—the next few months alone are full of hype, with the final season of The Americans, Legion Season 2, Atlanta Season 2, and the J. Paul Getty season of the new anthology series Trust—but at the same time, it’s gotta be feeling the heat. I’d be hammering out contract extensions for Noah Hawley and Donald Glover at all costs right now.
Disney’s Fox Acquisition Is Already Drawing Concern
It’s possible that Netflix made an offer Murphy couldn’t refuse ($300 million is Scrooge McDuck swimming money), but it’s hard not to read into the new deal as a ripple effect of Disney’s impending acquisition of the majority of 21st Century Fox. The Disney deal includes the Fox channel as well as FX, both networks that have aired Murphy’s work. And he was clearly hesitant to partner with the Mouse House—as The New York Times pointed out, when Murphy met Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, he asked him: “Am I going to have to put Mickey Mouse in American Horror Story?”
Even with assurances that Iger wants Fox’s creators to retain their own distinctive styles, there is still the worry of, as Marvel head Kevin Feige put it, having to play in a “shared sandbox” at Disney. And so Murphy is going with the less restrictive option in Netflix, where broadcast standards don’t exist—think an HBO, Starz, or Showtime level of onscreen freedom. He was already pushing the envelope with edgy, macabre gore and semi-nudity in American Horror Story—imagine what he can do with Netflix. (Or don’t, it’s probably gross.)
Murphy likely isn’t the only Fox creator apprehensive about the Disney acquisition—and he might not be the last showrunner who decides to jump ship in the short term. Could someone like Empire’s Lee Daniels be lured to the greener, censor-free pastures of Netflix?
Regardless of your personal feelings toward Murphy’s shows—they can be a bit much at times—this deal is an undeniable win for Netflix, a company that continues to make massive strides with its original programming (on its way to world domination, presumably). As for Murphy, well, anytime you’re about to make $300 million, you’re a winner too.