It’s the latest battle in television’s multi-billion dollar war to land the next Game of Thrones, and Netflix has proved victorious this time around shelling out $200 million dollar for an exclusive pact with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the men who brought the first Game of Thrones to television. When compared to other Netflix mega-deals, Benioff and Weiss’s total puts them above Shonda Rhimes’s $150 million deal, but is still dwarfed by Ryan Murphy’s $300 million. Though, unlike the notoriously prolific Rhimes and Murphy, Benioff and Weiss have only one hit show under the belt (one that left some fans disappointed in later seasons, at that). There’s also the matter that their attempt at a follow-up, Confederate, was met with instant backlash (that project is now officially dead as the pair depart HBO), and they’ve already inked a deal with Disney to shepherd an entirely new Star Wars trilogy into existence. So how did Benioff and Weiss net that mage-payday and what, exactly, do they plan to do with it? Well, let’s break it down.
According to the trades, the duo, who will not be directly involved in any Thrones spin-offs, have been quietly shopping around their television projects to just about anyone in Hollywood. Of course there were discussions with HBO’s parent company, but they also met with Apple, Amazon, Disney (who would have tabbed their projects for FX, incidentally Murphy’s old stomping grounds, and not, incidentally, it’s more family friendly Disney+ streaming service), and Comcast. According to The Hollywood Reporter the pair were using Westworld creators Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan’s recent $150 million deal with Amazon as a guiding stick, and wanted to be sure they got more than (which, fair). A chunk of that money would also go to building up the kind of production company that could handle multiple projects at once, instead of focusing on just one. There was apparently some concern that the duo’s attentions may be monopolized by their Star Wars commitment. The first film in their still mysterious trilogy (which is said to take place outside of the overall “Skywalker” saga) is due in 2022, after all.
Still, Netflix decided to go all in on the creators.
“We are thrilled to welcome master storytellers David Benioff and Dan Weiss to Netflix,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement. “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.”
That does, however, leave the question as to what, exactly, to expect out of the pact. With Games of Thrones and the Star Wars deal, Benioff and Weiss are best known for adapting already established intellectual property. Though, Benioff, independently did get his start writing the script for Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, which was based on his on novel, and has other original scripts and books under his belt. Weiss, though with less credits overall, has also written a novel entitled Lucky Wander Boy. The pair certainly have their own original ideas (the Confederate idea wasn’t based on existing material either), so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they exercised those muscles under their Netflix deal.
While their are certainly a lot of upcoming shows that include dragons in the works, we also probably would not be surprised if the pair doesn’t immediately get back into the fantasy genre either. There’s likely a reason they decided not to get involved with the Thrones spin-offs.
Netflix, meanwhile, could use a Game of Thrones-sized hit. The streamer is set to loose the rights to both Friends and The Office in the coming year, which reportedly are some of the most popular titles on the service. Stranger Things remains a sensation, but few of the network’s other original shows have quite reached that status.