By Joe Flint
In the latest sign of the escalating battle for talent in the entertainment industry, Netflix Inc. signed producer Ryan Murphy to a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal to create content exclusively for the streaming service starting this July.
Terms of the pact weren't disclosed, but people familiar with the matter said the production agreement runs for five years and has an estimated value of $300 million. Mr. Murphy is currently based at 21st Century Fox Inc., which bid aggressively to retain his services as he has created many hits for both Fox Broadcasting and the FX cable channel. Shows that Mr. Murphy has produced include "Glee," "American Horror Story," "American Crime Story" and "9-1-1."
For Netflix, Mr. Murphy is the latest in a string of high-profile signings. Last August, it wooed away Shonda Rhimes, the creator of ABC hits such as "Scandal" and "Grey's Anatomy," away from Walt Disney Co. It has been equally aggressive in signing up on-camera talent as well. David Letterman returned to television with a series of specials for Netflix, and many big name stand-up comedians left HBO for Netflix including Chris Rock, Amy Schumer and Dave Chappelle.
Netflix has already been something of a second home for Mr. Murphy. His drama "Nip/Tuck" for FX about fast-living plastic surgeons was the first series Netflix licensed episodes for, and it has since bought rerun rights to several other of Mr. Murphy's shows. Before this new deal, Mr. Murphy already had two original programs in the works for Netflix.
"Ryan Murphy's series have influenced the global cultural zeitgeist, reinvented genres and changed the course of television history. His unfaltering dedication to excellence and to give voice to the underrepresented, to showcase a unique perspective or just to shock the hell out of us, permeates his genre-shattering work," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer.
Although Mr. Murphy is moving to Netflix, he is still committed to his current series on Fox and FX, some of which have several seasons left to run. He also has a new show in the works for FX, "Pose," a drama set in New York in the 1980s about the transgender community.
Mr. Murphy's decision to jump to Netflix comes just over a month after Disney struck a deal to acquire the bulk of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, including FX and the television-production studio he has called home for many years. Soon after the Disney-Fox deal was announced, Mr. Murphy joked at a press conference that he had asked Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger if he was going to have to put Mickey Mouse into his dark drama "American Horror Story." He said Mr. Iger assured him that wouldn't happen.
Still, Mr. Murphy made clear after the deal was announced that the sale to Disney shook him up. He said before that, he thought he would "literally be buried on the Fox lot" and that he was "not prepared for what happened."
A Disney spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
At Fox, Mr. Murphy had virtually unchecked freedom to pursue his creative vision and enjoyed a very close relationship with Dana Walden, chairman of the Fox Television Group. Ms. Walden's own future in the wake of the Disney deal has become a source of speculation as well. She may be in line for a senior position at Disney if the deal is approved by regulators. There is also speculation from people close to her that she may opt to join Mr. Murphy's production business.
Ms. Walden didn't respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox's television studio declined to comment on the departure of Mr. Murphy next year.
21st Century Fox and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.
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