After an earnings report that dropped Netflix stock price down to the low 300s, Netflix has reportedly been in the midst of several bidding wars in the Hollywood equivalent of free agency. In a previous article, it was noted that Netflix was willing to offer Eddie Murphy $70 million dollars for a standup special when the company announced the cancellation of feminist comedy Tuca and Bertie. This announcement also comes after Disney unveiled a bundled package of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ priced specifically to undercut Netflix.
The arms race for original content is well underway, as Netflix knows very well. And while Disney is content to rehash children’s classics like Home Alone and Cheaper by the Dozen, Netflix has reportedly dropped $200 million for an exclusive deal with the showrunners behind HBO’s Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, commonly referred to as D&D.
Benioff and Weiss are the latest in an assembly line of splashy talent acquisitions Netflix has made in its never-ending spending spree. They join a current roster that includes Ryan Murphy ($300 million), Shonda Rhimes ($100 million) and Kenya Barris ($100 million)—expensive free agents that Netflix hopes can offset the looming losses of top-watched library programming, such as Friends and The Office. But is it really as simple as swapping X for Y?
Regardless of what you think about the final season of Game of Thrones, Netflix was right to aggressively pursue its creators. But while this deal answers one question about the future of the streamer’s lineup, it may not address the more immediate issue staring Netflix right in the face. Only time will tell if the $200 million investment translates to growing subscriber numbers. But as Andy Dufresne once said, “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”
And while some such as the New York Observer suggest that the high profile names will draw enough buzz to stabilize subscriber numbers, they underestimate just had badly their showrunning for HBO’s Game of Thrones really was. The eighth season of Game of Thrones was overwhelmingly poorly received by the audience. As I note in my column “Why Game of Thrones felt rushed” they are without the excuse of running out of source material to justify their terrible writing decisions.
Their job was to adapt the novels into film, a challenging task. People tend to forget that the first four seasons were based on the first three books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Season five was based on half of book five, A Dance With Dragons. Book four was, with exception to Arya, passed over until season six, where D&D doubled back into A Feast For Crows in a rushed attempt to… I don’t know… fill the time and bring back old characters. D&D essentially followed books 1-3, skipped book four, went to book five, inserted non-existent and forgettable plots(Dorne), then went beyond canon, then rushed through book four, then went back beyond. If Game of Thrones only now feels rushed to you, you have not been paying attention. So what am I saying? Two arguments. One Game of Thrones cut out and deviated so much from the books that they did not have enough plot points to build to a longer series. Second, D&D, instead of writing substitute plot points, they chose to drag out a plot remaining plot but instead of building up to it with actual plot points, the filled the time in-between with fast travel, fan service in the form of plot armor and nostalgia, and contradictory story elements. So, in order to build a non rushed series, we truly have to go back and redo season five onward.
Proponents of this free agent signing overestimate the forgiving nature of the internet and our ever increasing cancel culture. This move has been poorly received by fans who are accurately living up to the mantra “The North Remembers.”
If there was ever a sign of elitism, it’s the ability for people who are “inside” to fall upwards. We see this a lot in politics where losing incumbents become lobbyist, and disastrous Presidential candidates become Senators. Hollywood has rejected the audience reception of the final season of Game of Thrones with whopping 32 Emmy Nominations, several of which for writing, directing, and acting were undeserved. It was a stunning display of elitism and Netflix, instead of standing apart, is joining the flock in ignoring the reception that has made D&D the most toxic showrunners in the industry, that dwarfs Rian Johnson and Joss Whedon/Zach Snyder, by dropping nine figures of borrowed money on them. Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off.
It’s amazing how much of an echo chamber Hollywood is in to allow D&D to fail upward to the tune of $200 million.
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