How much is a name brand show creator worth in the streaming era? According to a flurry of stories about J.J. Abrams and his talks with WarnerMedia today—a half billion dollars. That figure would set the high water mark of what media companies have been shelling out to top talent, besting even the deals that Netflix gave Ryan Murphy ($300 million) and Shonda Rimes ($100 million).
High-price producer deals have been the currency of the entertainment industry for a while. But the thinking now is that, in the subscription streaming era when exclusive shows make all the difference in getting someone to sign up for a new service (or stopping someone from canceling), then you need guaranteed hits. It was interesting to see the bidding war for Mr. Abrams play out. The Star Wars director played a prominent role in Apple’s TV roll-out and the company reportedly courted him for a similar type deal. So did Netflix, naturally. But WarnerMedia really needs the hits to make its upcoming streaming service work, so it’s possible it was simply willing to give the most favorable terms.
Whether Mr. Abrams is able to deliver on it is another matter. Although he began his career in television, and produced the mega-hit “Lost” for ABC, he’s more known for being a helmer of movie franchises these days. But the getting is good in Hollywood now for anyone who the companies believe can deliver.