Shonda Rhimes Says She Was “Sort Of Waiting” To Be Called Out During Strike For Netflix Deal “That Started People Moving Into Streaming”

Shonda Rhimes, CEO and founder of Shondaland, who is behind such hit series as Bridgerton, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, said the writers’ strike, for her, “wasn’t complicated at all. “I consider myself to be a writer, first and foremost. So I was a writer on strike. And I was very aware that I [was] not on strike the way a lot of people [were] on strike,” she said.

“You know, I don’t live in LA. So I wasn’t on the picket lines every day. I wasn’t going to lose my job, or my house, or my car, or not be able to pay my kid’s school tuition. But the strike was for those people, for the people who make much less as writers than I do, who are trying to get a living wage. And we’re trying to make sure that their futures are assured.”

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During a Q&A at The New York Times DealBook conference, she was asked if she ever worried about being blamed to some extent for moving viewers to Netflix as streaming services (led by Netflix) disrupted the television landscape. Streaming residuals were a big issue in both the writers and actors in the recent strikes. Rhimes was one of the first to sign a major talent deal with the company in 2017, jumping from her longtime home at ABC.

“I will admit that I was sort of waiting for someone to say, ‘You made the first big deal that started people moving into streaming…And therefore, like, this is partially your fault.”

She did not make the move for the money, which was substantial, but for a change and creative freedom. “I’d been making television at one place for such a long time, she said, referencing her long-time home at Disney. “And at the time, I remember The Crown was on Netflix [and] someone was telling me that they spent $12 million an episode on The Crown. And I thought, that’s an insane, amazing…And you could see that they could do things there that you can’t do on [broadcast] television. I liked the challenge of that.”

She recalled a conversation with co-CEO Ted Sarandos “where I said, ‘I just want to make shows and be left alone’.” And she went, followed by Ryan Murphy and others. ”It started a big sort of chain of people moving to streaming.”

On the economics of streaming, she cautioned, “It works for Netflix, but doesn’t work for anybody else.”

Asked what she’s watching, she said, “I’m not watching television….I mean, I encourage everyone to watch Netflix obviously. But I have not watched narrative programming in a while. And I think it’s because I wanted to give my brain a break.” There’s “some really great stuff out there” and she doesn’t want it to influence her projects or writing. “But I also have been watching a lot more documentary programming, sports programming. I don’t know why, but that’s what’s interesting to me right now.”

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