Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss have signed a multi-year film and TV deal with Netflix worth about $200 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. As part of the deal, Benioff and Weiss will no longer be producing shows for HBO, where they were showrunners and writers on Game of Thrones for its entirety, and will work on projects exclusively for Netflix, with the exception of the two’s existing commitment to an ongoing multi-film deal with Disney for the Star Wars franchise.
“We are thrilled to welcome master storytellers David Benioff and Dan Weiss to Netflix. They are a creative force and have delighted audiences worldwide with their epic storytelling. We can’t wait to see what their imaginations will bring to our members,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told THR.
In a joint statement, Benioff and Weiss thanked HBO, but naturally made no mention of the project Confederate, an alternative history show centered on a version of America in which the South won the Civil War and slavery persisted. The idea, which Benioff and Weiss pitched to HBO in 2017, received immense backlash from critics and the public. Many displeased fans saw a project helmed by two white men — creators with questionable track records regarding race and slavery on Game of Thrones — that would potentially treat American slavery as a form of titillating entertainment, instead of a structural force still very much embedded into modern politics and society.
Benioff and Weiss will still be taking charge of three new Star Wars films for Disney
The future of Confederate has been uncertain in the two years since. HBO said in February of this year that Benioff and Weiss’ busy schedules, and not the controversy, was the culprit keeping the show from getting off the ground. Yet now, it appears Confederate will not be getting made after all. THR reports that the show has been shelved indefinitely, while the Netflix deal absolves Benioff and Weiss of ever having to touch it again.
“We’ve had a beautiful run with HBO for more than a decade and we’re grateful to everyone there for always making us feel at home. Over the past few months we’ve spent many hours talking to Cindy Holland and Peter Friedlander, as well as Ted Sarandos and Scott Stuber,” the duo said in their statement. “We remember the same shots from the same ‘80s movies; we love the same books; we’re excited about the same storytelling possibilities. Netflix has built something astounding and unprecedented, and we’re honored they invited us to join them.” Benioff and Weiss will still get executive producer credits on the planned and in-production Game of Thrones spinoff series, but they won’t be involved in any of the day-to-day production.
Netflix reportedly beat out Amazon and Disney for the deal, with Amazon the presumed frontrunner in the bidding war. Amazon spent around $150 million to secure a deal with Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, but the company did not apparently pony up enough to nab Benioff and Weiss, with Netflix swooping in last month with an offer the duo found attractive enough to sign, THR reports.
Disney, on the other hand, already has Benioff and Weiss signed to produce a trilogy of new Star Wars films under its Lucasfilm subsidiary, the first of which will hit theaters in 2022. But it was participating in the bidding in hopes it could get Benioff and Weiss to work on programming for its FX network and possibly its upcoming Disney+ streaming service.
Netflix is spending a fortune to get exclusive new shows from hit makers
Despite the controversial Game of Thrones finale, Benioff and Weiss have been able to command such a high sum for an exclusive deal thanks to the record number of Emmys the final season of the fantasy program earned. And because of the duo’s experience working on a show as large and complicated as Game of Thrones, they’ll be capable of producing both TV shows and films for Netflix.
But the deal is an expensive one nonetheless, and it joins other costly deals Netflix has signed with creators like American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, both of which are said to run hundreds of millions of dollars each. Netflix is also currently facing lower-than-expected subscriber growth, due to price increases to its subscription plans and poor performance of expensive original shows and films over the past couple of quarters.
The company is now trimming shows left and right, most recently the animated comedy series Tuca & Bertie and off-the-wall sci-fi drama The OA, to cut costs and reign in its spending. So a deal like the one signed with Benioff and Weiss is a solid investment Netflix hopes will help it make up for its recent shortcomings and the looming loss of popular syndicated shows like The Office.