J.J. Abrams signs exclusivity deal with WarnerMedia reportedly worth $250 million

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J.J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot Productions have signed a deal with AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, the company announced today. The deal is reportedly worth $250 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The partnership means that Bad Robot will produce original series and films for WarnerMedia and its various divisions, including HBO and Warner Bros. Pictures. It also marks the first time that Bad Robot’s video games and digital divisions will also operate under one roof.

It’s unclear if the deal limits Abrams to only directing and producing films and series for WarnerMedia properties, but his ongoing projects at Paramount Pictures (Bad Robot’s former feature home) and his Star Wars work are still continuing. Bad Robot will still be able to sell projects to third-party suppliers, the deal stipulates, but it’s likely these will be series or films that WarnerMedia passes on. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the current Star Wars trilogy, is due out on December 20th.

While Abrams being a part of the WarnerMedia family means that people might see more directorial projects from him at Warner Bros., it’s also a big win on the streaming front. WarnerMedia is gearing up to launch its streaming competitor to Netflix and Hulu, called HBO Max. It’s reportedly going to rely heavily on prestige series from HBO (Abrams’ Bad Robot is currently one of the production companies behind Westworld), licensed series like Friends, and a slate of new originals.

Having Bad Robot and Abrams attached to new shows and streaming-exclusive films is critical to securing new subscribers and staying competitive as the streaming wars heat up. The Abrams deal is similar to Netflix signing overall deals with creators like Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy, and Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes. Amazon, too, has signed expensive deals with showrunners, including Westworld’s Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.

Both Abrams and Bad Robot have been among the most sought after names in Hollywood. Abrams was reportedly courting deals from Amazon, Apple, and Netflix alongside WarnerMedia just a few months ago, according to THR. Rumors suggested Abrams’ deal with WarnerMedia was going to come with a $500 million price tag attached. Although the new reported deal is about 50 percent less, it’s unclear if Abrams will secure additional revenue through his upcoming producing, writing, and directorial deals.

“[WarnerMedia CEO] John Stankey has a powerful vision for the future of WarnerMedia and is committed to storytelling that connects people around the world,” Abrams said in a press release. “We are excited and gratified to be a part of this new chapter under his and [Warner Bros. Pictures CEO] Ann Sarnoff’s thoughtful leadership.”

WarnerMedia and Bad Robot have been in business together to some degree since 2006, when Bad Robot first inked an overall TV deal with Warner Bros. The deal was renewed in 2012 and 2015. This new deal runs through 2024, at which point the race to secure Abrams may just pick up again.

Comments

I wonder how this affects any possible projects like Star Trek 4?

Long since dead. Looks like they’re going the Ghostbusters 3 route and rolling back into the original canon going forward.

Not dead. Not with the CBS/Viacom merger

Maybe Abrams involvement is dead now. But I would think CBS-Viacom will be keenly interested in getting Star Trek stood up on its hind legs, especially after they see what Disney+ is going to be doing with Star Wars, namely extend the same characters and plot lines across both theaters and streaming, so fans end up buying tickets and subscribing. That’s going to be a powerful profit driver.

Which could mean, watch out! CBS is going to have Paramount make Star Trek movies based on their streaming series. Which I know aren’t universally beloved. Then again, Star Wars fans loathe Disney Star Wars so this is no barrier to profit.

It has been very clear that the film and tv franchises are separate from here on out. It’s still far too early for any films based on Discovery.

It’s about money. CBS/Viacom sees how much money the MCU makes, Star Trek is about the only thing lore wise that rivals the hundreds of Marvel comics, and EU Star Wars stories out there. They’ll probably link them together because the data shows having some sort of a shared universe = more money.

The merger will lead to OG canon swallowing up the JJ/Kelvin stuff.

After Viacom and CBS remerge, I expect Alex Kurtzman will have full control over both the movie and TV universes. He’s already got Discovery in one century, Picard in another, and possibly another series in a third (if Section 31 goes forward as planned, or if we miraculously get a Pike Enterprise series), throwing in a whole other timeline would just make a bigger mess.

Star Trek couldn’t handle another movie reboot this close to the last three films.

Yeah it could just you wait.

Paramount has no interest in throwing away what was started with the reboot. It costs a lot of money to do that, and they already have a script written for the fourth movie.

They’re already doing what’s always been done with star trek: tying everything together. The Picard series is directly tied to the Kelvin timeline with the destruction of Romulus.

Kurtzman got fired, didn’t he?

CBS-Viacom owns Star Trek so they can hire somebody else. Good riddance to Abrams.

Exclusivity sucks.

get used to it

What do you mean? It’s not a new concept, just a bad one.

I don’t think the deal is exclusive. It looks like he’ll be "In residence" helping with internal projects and giving Warner "first look/choice" on projects developed by BadRobot.

JJ has never signed away his right to create, look at the Paramount deal and how little that kept him from working with Disney.

In a recent interview about his conglomeration of media projects (games, movies, shows, etc) he was asked about a deal like this w/Disney and he hinted that exclusivity was a deal breaker in any deal he was looking at. Looking back I suspect this was a negotiating tool/message to Warner.

I took it as them completing all existing contracts and from then producing exclusively for Warner (I’m no expert though, I just went with what I could gather from the article). You may be right, it sounds like you’re way more informed than I am on this stuff. I simply hate the idea of companies using their size and money to lock down creators, stories, etc.

I will say that using the term "Exclusivity Deal" in the headline would be pretty fucking bad reporting if it was in fact not an exclusivity deal.

Do they promise to keep him locked in a "mystery box" so he can’t mess with Star Trek anymore? I’d contribute some $$$ to make that happen!

I wonder if that means the game they were working on with Epic is dead. I’d assume Bad Robot would work with the WB Games studios like Rocksteady and Neverrealm going forward.

Hopefully WarnerMedia is also looking at a lot of up and coming creators.

This (and deals like it across the industry) really smack of bad sports franchises that bet the farm on that one established big name and then can’t pay for the rest of the team to be of high quality. Buy low and sell high, people!

Begun, the Streaming Wars have

We may have 20 services by 2021.

Rule of two there is. One Studio, and One Creator. There always is.

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