They were created by the streaming service that broke the mould of how film and TV is made — creating a brutal bidding war over A-list talent.
Until recently, paydays on the big and small screen had begun to shrink, but the popularity of streaming is fast reversing that trend. From The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) to House Of Cards (Netflix), many of the biggest recent hits have been created not by traditional production houses but by streaming companies, including Amazon and Apple TV. And they’re all willing to invest heavily in order to win the battle for viewers.
Many of the biggest recent hits including The Crown (pictured) have been created not by traditional production houses but by streaming companies
That means buying up the best writers, directors and actors on both sides of the pond.
Jaws dropped in 2019 when Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge landed a reported £14.5 million ($20 million)-a-year production deal with Amazon Prime Video.
And, this year, Bond star Daniel Craig became the highest paid actor in the world when it was revealed he’ll pocket £72 million ($100 million) for starring in the next two Knives Out films for Netflix.
And they’re not the only Brits prospering from streaming millions. Others to gain mega paydays include Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker and, of course, Prince Harry with his multi-million-dollar deals with Netflix, Spotify and Apple TV (he’s got to pay the mortgage on that mansion somehow!).
That’s not to mention Jeremy Clarkson’s wild success with Amazon Prime Video. His £160 million deal for The Grand Tour and surprise hit Clarkson’s Farm on his Diddly Squat smallholding far outstrip anything he used to earn at the BBC.
Syndicating big hits such as Friends and The Office may have drawn in millions of viewers for the streaming companies, but it meant they had to pay huge amounts to the production houses who own the rights to those shows. By making their own content, however, streamers own it for ever.
And because they’re not tied to traditional models of production or payment, they can offer huge sums to attract the best creators and A-list actors.
So who exactly are the stars of the big screen, small screen and behind the screen raking in the streaming millions? BETH HALE and LIBBY GALVIN take a look…
The name’s Blanc, Benoit Blanc
His long-delayed final outing as 007, No Time To Die, is due for release later this month.
But it’s his mega-bucks deal with Netflix that has made Daniel Craig the highest-paid actor of 2021.
Daniel Craig reportedly getting paid a whopping $100 million (£72 million) to reprise his role as detective Benoit Blanc (pictured)
He is reportedly getting paid a whopping $100 million (£72 million) to reprise his role as detective Benoit Blanc in two sequels to the 2019 whodunit Knives Out, somewhat dwarfing the £18 million he was apparently due to land for playing Bond.
What he plans to do with all his earnings is unknown. But Craig, 53, who is married to actress Rachel Weisz, recently said he would rather ‘get rid’ of his money than leave it to his children, because he finds inheritance ‘quite distasteful’.
Hardly Diddly Squat for farmer Clarkson
Petrolhead-turned-farmer Jeremy Clarkson and his erstwhile Top Gear cohorts Richard Hammond and James May were snapped up by Amazon Prime Video in 2015, in a deal thought to be worth around £160 million.
Petrolhead-turned-farmer Jeremy Clarkson and his erstwhile Top Gear cohorts Richard Hammond and James May were snapped up by Amazon Prime Video in 2015
As part of the arrangement, each got a deal for a solo TV format in addition to their contracted Grand Tour episodes, hence Clarkson’s recent outing on Clarkson’s Farm.
The trio are definitely making more than diddly squat…
Fleabag creator with deal that’s anything but shabby
She may have made her name playing a troubled young woman in Fleabag, which she also wrote, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge is now streaming giant royalty.
The Killing Eve writer signed an exclusive deal to create and produce new television shows with Amazon in 2019, reported to be netting her £14.5 million a year over three years.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge signed an exclusive deal to create and produce new television shows with Amazon in 2019
She’s certainly killing it on the earnings; only this week it emerged that her production company, PMWB, had turned over £22 million in the past 20 months.
It’s not been all work and no play though. Waller-Bridge, 36, who was drafted in to help script the upcoming Bond film No Time To Die, was able to splash out on a £5.2 million London home earlier this year, complete with four bathrooms, gym and a bar.
A right royal money-maker
Proving you don’t have to have a cabinet full of awards to rule the streaming scene, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, landed the deal to crown all deals when they created a production company and signed on the dotted line with Netflix.
The deal, announced last year, will see the Duke and Duchess of Sussex produce documentaries, feature films, scripted television programmes and children’s shows designed to ‘inform and give hope’.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, landed the deal to crown all deals when they created a production company and signed on the dotted line with Netflix
Precise details of the deal and its size haven’t been disclosed, but it’s reckoned to be worth in the region of £75 million, a sum that would certainly go some way to helping the couple — who quit the UK to forge a new life in California — establish the financial independence they claimed they seek.
They also have a deal with Spotify, said to be worth £18 million, to produce and host podcasts, as well as one with Apple TV (alongside their pal Oprah, with whom Harry filmed documentary The Me You Can’t See).
Ricky’s richer After Life
Comedian Ricky Gervais was rumoured to have been paid £32 million by Netflix in 2018 for a deal that included stand-up shows and writing.
Comedian Ricky Gervais was rumoured to have been paid £32 million by Netflix in 2018 for a deal that included stand-up shows and writing
He apparently landed a further £5 million to pen and star in a third series of his hit show After Life.
The co-creator of The Office, 60, who once lived in a flat above a King’s Cross brothel, is now estimated to be worth £100 million.
Golden deal for Black Mirror creator
Last year Black Mirror writer Charlie Brooker said he feared the world was getting a little too much like his hit dystopian series.
But there’s nothing dystopian about the deal he, co-creator Annabel Jones and their production outfit, Broke And Bones, signed with Netflix — a first-of-its-kind deal for the service in the UK, which reportedly could see Netflix eventually take control of the company for around $100 million (£72 million).
Charlie Brooker, pictured with wife Konnie Huq, signed a deal with Netflix for his production company
There’s no word yet on Brooker’s biggest creation, with rights for Black Mirror remaining with Endemol Shine.
He is married to former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, who once said if she ruled the world she would put a cap on earnings of the richest and distribute the money to ‘good causes’ instead.
P.S. It’s payday in the U.S. too
Mega producer Ryan Murphy (he of Glee and American Horror Story fame) landed the richest Netflix deal of all when he signed up to a $300 million (£217 million) five-year contract with the streaming giant in 2018.
It was the biggest deal in television history, with Netflix coaxing the 55-year-old creator of countless hit shows away from Fox TV.
It’s no wonder they wanted him — Murphy, 55, has created, co-created or produced such shows as Nip/Tuck and The Assassination Of Gianni Versace.
His shows for Netflix so far have included Halston and Ratched.
Now that’s a pretty sum
Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts has been pretty savvy with her streaming deals, partnering with Amazon, Apple and Netflix.
She’s said to be banking $25 million (£18 million) for her role, alongside Denzel Washington, in upcoming Netflix film Leave The World Behind.
Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts has been pretty savvy with her streaming deals, partnering with Amazon, Apple and Netflix
She also banked £450,000 per half-hour episode of ten-part Amazon series Homecoming.
She’s due to team up with fellow stream queen Reece Witherspoon to star in The Last Thing He Told Me for Apple TV+.
The man with the Netflix crown
He’s got two Oscar nominations for his films, but Peter Morgan — creator and writer of smash-hit The Crown — landed what was probably his biggest payday when he signed a multi-year contract with Netflix to create and develop shows and films for them.
Peter Morgan signed a multi-year contract with Netflix to create and develop shows and films for them
The sum involved was not revealed when he signed on the dotted line in 2019, but it was said to be ‘well into the eight-figure’ range (probably in the region of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s $20 million deal).
It means Morgan, who had an on-off relationship with Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher in The Crown), is royally minted.
Making a killing
Luther star Idris Elba was last year rumoured to be poised to earn £5 million to make shows and films for streaming service Apple TV+.
Luther star Idris Elba was last year rumoured to be poised to earn £5 million to make shows and films for streaming service Apple TV+
The deal with Elba and his production company Green Door Pictures was led by Jay Hunt, who commissioned Luther while at the BBC and is now Apple’s European content chief.
It was a big win for East Londoner Idris, 48, who made his acting debut in the Channel 5 soap Family Affairs.
Bridgerton’s a real gem
Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes was one of the first big-money signings by Netflix.
With her production company, Shondaland, she signed a multi-year deal in 2017 for a reported $100 million (£72 million).
Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes was one of the first big-money signings by Netflix
Period drama Bridgerton starring British actress Phoebe Dynevor (pictured) has had one series and three more on order
The 51-year-old has proved she’s still the woman with the golden touch, delivering yet another smash-hit in the shape of period drama Bridgerton starring British actress Phoebe Dynevor — with one series already under her belt and three more on order.
Star having biggest laugh
Comedy actor Adam Sandler, 54, is box-office gold as far as Netflix is concerned.
The comedian and his Happy Madison production company signed a four-picture $250 million (£180 million) deal back in 2014.
He then signed a new deal in 2017 and another last year. Sandler himself is said to be worth more than £300 million.
From White House to Netflix
In 2018, former U.S. president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, signed a $50 million (£35 million) deal to produce films and documentaries for Netflix.
Netflix said that the first slate of releases through the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, would feature ‘a wide range of fiction and non-fiction productions . . . including documentaries.’
The Rock and his millions
U.S. movie star and former WWE wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, has been raking in a fortune from deals with streaming giants, including $50 million (£36 million) with Amazon and $22 million (£15.9 million) with Netflix.
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