Streaming giant Netflix has inked a mega three-project deal with global superstar Beyoncé Knowles, worth a reported $60 million, a third of which went to her recent, much-anticipated behind-the-scenes Coachella concert special, “Homecoming,” the first of the trio. It’s a significant agreement that is representative of a recent sharp rise in content pacts with African American female creatives.
As TV networks target the African American market ever more aggressively, a corresponding rise in demand for content for that audience has meant a demonstrable increase in exclusive access to African American content creators who networks are clearly willing to pay up for.
It’s noteworthy that Knowles’ previous three TV specials — “Lemonade” (2016), “Life Is But a Dream” (2013) and the “On the Run” concert special (2014) — were all HBO broadcasts, but “Homecoming” was not. A likely explanation for that, according to Vulture, citing unnamed sources, is that binge-spending Netflix stepped in and offered more than HBO was willing to pony up for the special.
Though certainly less than the $100 million Netflix shelled out to get Shonda Rhimes in 2017, not to mention Ava DuVernay’s matching $100 million overall signing with Warner Bros. TV inked in 2018, Knowles’ deal with the streaming giant does match recent Netflix music/concert special pickups, including “Springsteen on Broadway” (2018), which came with a reported $20+ million price tag.
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Other noteworthy deals inked by black women creatives — significant in that they were all signed in the last 12 months alone, and represent a sharp increase compared to any previous time in TV history — include the prolific Lena Waithe’s first-look deal with Showtime; “Girls Trip” and “Little” writer, as well as “The First Wives Club” series creator Tracy Oliver’s first-look deal for film and TV with Topic Studios; “Insecure’s” Issa Rae boasts multiple deals, including an overall with HBO, and a multi-faceted pact with Columbia Pictures; Rae’s “Insecure” co-star and producer Natasha Rothwell has expanded her relationship with HBO, signing an overall deal with the premium cabler; “Power” creator and co-showrunner Courtney Kemp expanded her relationship with Starz, signing a new multi-year development and production deal with the premium cabler; 20th Century Fox Television’s multiyear, multimillion-dollar overall deal with “Soul Food” creator Felicia D. Henderson; Apple’s multiyear deal with former queen of talk Oprah Winfrey; Tiffany Haddish’s first-look two-year deal with HBO; and more, although financial specifics of each pact have been kept mostly under wraps.
As relatively new players with deep pockets like Apple continue to aggressively enter the original content space, taking on streaming behemoths like Netflix and Amazon, more deals like the above can be expected.
Additionally, recent launches of new networks targeting specifically African American women, like Cleo TV — which aims to be a home for black millennial women — increasingly crowd a content field that already includes black woman-focused OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, as well as BET Networks, TV One, and traditionally non-black TV networks seemingly starting to realize the profit potential of that historically underserved market. Unscripted series-heavy VH1 is one key example.
“Peak TV” — a term coined in 2015 by FX Networks chief John Landgraf — continues to be redefined.