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J.J. Abrams nears massive deal with WarnerMedia as race for Hollywood talent heats up

Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Director and producer J.J. Abrams, known for hit movies such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and TV shows including "Alias," is nearing a massive production deal with WarnerMedia, the parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO.

Abrams is in advanced stages of negotiations with the AT&T-owned media and entertainment giant, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

The long-anticipated pact, which is not yet finalized, would end months of speculation in Hollywood over where Abrams would take his production company Bad Robot after a long stretch making films for Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures. Bad Robot, which Abrams runs with his wife Katie McGrath, already makes TV shows with Warner Bros., including "Castle Rock" on Hulu.

Representatives for WarnerMedia and Bad Robot declined to comment.

Details of Abrams' new arrangement have not been revealed and it is unclear when it will be announced. But sources have estimated that the multiyear agreement will be worth about $500 million, making it one of the richest deals for a producer. The pact reflects an ongoing arms race in Hollywood as studios try to lock down top-tier directors and showrunners to compete with deep-pocketed tech rivals.

The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline reported earlier on Monday that WarnerMedia had won the battle for Bad Robot's business.

 

Multiple studios had been courting Abrams in recent months. Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, streaming giant Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. all met with Bad Robot, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

But WarnerMedia, led by AT&T executive John Stankey, has long been considered a front-runner. WarnerMedia, which owns Warner Bros., HBO and networks including CNN and Cartoon Network, has a broad range of businesses that could boost Abrams' franchises, including theme park attractions, toys and video games.

WarnerMedia is solidifying its talent roster as the company prepares to compete with Netflix and Disney in the growing streaming space. The company is also preparing a much anticipated streaming service that is expected to compete directly with Netflix and Disney's upcoming Disney+.

The likely Bad Robot deal comes as film and TV studios are increasingly willing to offer grand sums to creators of hit shows and movies as the competition for talent ramps up between streaming companies such as Netflix and the traditional industry players.

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