Greg Berlanti’s New Overall Deal is a Big Deal for WBD

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Back in December, I wondered out loud if the time for “giant overall” deals had passed. With cost cutting hitting all entertainment companies, it seemed likely.

Well, apparently not! Earlier this month, Warner Bros Discovery signed a big new overall TV deal with Greg Berlanti, the most prolific showrunner/producer of this century, from one of the cost-conscious executives in entertainment. How does that make sense? I’ll explain why this is a big deal and its potential ramifications.

Plus, I’ll check-in on a few streaming stories from January (and some from 2022) that help reveal if the streamers are (or are not) changing their strategies. That, and some thoughts on in-person events, the FTC and COPPA and more.

Most Important Story of the Week – Warner Bros Discovery Secures Greg Berlanti’s TV Services Through 2022

Back in 2018, in addition to the big streaming deals from Netflix (Shonda and Ryan in particular), Greg Berlanti quietly extended his deal with (then) Warner Bros. Since then, it’s mostly been crickets for giant overall deals, besides Shonda Rhimes’ extension with Netflix. 

Is the mega-deal era over?

Well, we got news that Berlanti has a new mega-deal with Warner Bros. Discovery. After switching agencies in December, he signed a brand new deal. This was likely driven by shifting entertainment business models though: instead of focusing on volume, his new deal is focused on performance targets. (However, Berlanti still has a film deal with Netflix.) His new TV deal goes through 2027, and we didn’t get any price inklings this time, but if his last deal was worth $400 million over six years, I’d guess this deal is in the same range.

The positive news for Warner Bros Discovery is fairly obvious: Berlanti is a big deal showrunner. His top shows may not have the highest ratings (most of CW fare was aggressively “meh”), but they were produced on a budget and delivered consistent ratings. “Consistency” is a showrunner is a valuable skill, and Zaslav obviously recognized that. At one point, Berlanti had forty shows on air or in production!

I do have some concerns, though. In particular, Berlanti will remain with Warner Bros. TV, while HBO will run the HBO Max side of the house. Meaning Berlanti will have to “sell” to that fellow entity to support their streaming ambitions. Yes, Zaslav wants all boats to “row together”, but that’s easier said than done.

Of course, Warner Bros. TV has always been about more than just delivering TV shows in-house. (They did make Friends and The Big Bang Theory after all!) Berlanti’s You delivers very good ratings for Netflix, for example. So this deal could be interesting in how much it incentivizes third party sales as well.

I have the most questions for what happens to Berlanti’s DC shows. Notably, he created “The Arrowverse”, a series of TV shows set in a shared DC universe. (Six shows, with a seventh that is technically set in a separate universe.) He was even set to make a Green Lantern show for HBO Max, but it’s being overhauled. (Fun fact: Berlanti helped write 2011 flop Green Lantern. Yikes!) How does Berlanti coexist with James Gunn and Peter Safran, the folks running the TV side of the house? It’s an open question whether DC tries to unite its film or TV efforts a la Marvel/MCU, or if they keep it separate. Indeed, one article reported that TV shows based on comics will NOT be the focus of this new deal.

The Zaslavian strategy then is coming into focus. Pay for content with high ROI. (Either huge spectacles, or cheap content that gets lots of replay.) Re-signing Berlanti is part of that. Zaslav isn’t opposed to spending big money, but spending big money with bad odds. Berlanti’s prolific production means he doesn’t have bad odds, unlike some other big name overall deals. (See J.J. Abrams or Benioff & Weiss.)

Now, does this blow up the market for overall deals? I doubt it. As I predicted in December, I bet Ryan Murphy’s next deal doesn’t match his current deal in price per year, whether he stays at Netflix, moves to Disney or goes somewhere else. Again, note that we didn’t get a price tag on Murphy’s current deal. 

That silence says volumes.

Other Contenders for Most Important Story 

Partially due to the streaming industry maturing and partially due to Wall Street’s change of heart and partially due to some irrational tech exuberance finally fading under the strain of rising interest rates, 2023 could be the year where streamers finally update their strategies, as I wrote last week. 

And indeed, much of the news over the last few weeks/months shows some subtle changes by all the streamers.


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The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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