Studios and Streaming Giants Vie for Big J.J. Abrams Deal

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J.J. Abrams
Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson, Wikimedia Commons

From Mission: Impossible to Treks and Wars in the Stars to killer cowboy robots, J.J. Abrams will be writing his own ticket for his next big deal with a studio.

No matter what he’s doing, whether it’s executive producing a new television series or working on the latest installment of a billion-dollar franchise, J.J. Abrams gets a lot of attention.

In 2006, after launching the pop-culture dominating series LOST with ABC Networks, Abrams moved his production company to Paramount studios. They would produce his films, while Warner Bros. television had first dibs on any Abrams series.

Now, after 14 years, Abrams is looking to move Bad Robot again and heavy-hitters in the business Disney, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros. are all vying for the writer, director, and producer’s attention.

With his penchant for creating mega-hits, Abrams is likely to land a huge deal that will shower him in money and offer the kind of creative freedom directors like him would kill for.

J.J. Abrams

Who Is J.J. Abrams?

If you never pay attention to movie or television credits, chances are the name J.J. Abrams appears somewhere in the credits of your favorite show or movie. He sold a script for Regarding Henry, a movie eventually starring Harrison Ford, right out of college. He worked on the television series Felicity, and he then developed Alias, a hit show about a spy network with great action and incredible stories.

From there he produced and directed the first two hours of LOST and went on to direct Mission: Impossible III. He took what appeared to be a stalled or dying franchise and turned it into a mega-hit. For Paramount he’s directed a number of movies, such as the monster hit Cloverfield and the Spielberg-inspired Super 8.

J.J. Abrams

Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Yet, the J.J. Abrams renaissance truly began in 2009, when he was chosen to relaunch the Star Trek franchise for Paramount. In the film, he not only recast the iconic roles portrayed in the original Star Trek series, but he also used Star Trek’s time-travel loopholes to create a whole new “universe” for it. He directed two of the three Star Trek films with this new cast.

Yet, in 2014, he was tapped by Lucasfilm and Disney to write, produce, and direct the first new Star Wars film since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Unlike with Star Trek, however, Abrams brought back the original cast members from the first series of films. Currently, he’s finishing off this new Star Wars series by directing what’s billed as the final film of the “Skywalker saga.”

The New Deal

Abrams’s deal with Paramount was good for him and the studio, but it seemed better for Abrams. He was not exclusive to Paramount, allowing him to direct other studios’ films, like Star Wars. Also, because Paramount didn’t have a TV wing, he was able to work with Warner Bros. studios and see his shows on networks like Fox, CBS, and streaming services like Hulu.

Yet, since media companies are looking to consolidate their talent (and television isn’t seen as “lesser” than cinema anymore), it’s likely that any new deal will want the first right of refusal for any new project Abrams and his company, Bad Robot, have in the pipeline. This also means that whatever the payday will be for Abrams and his company, it’s sure to be a sizeable one.

J.J. Abrams

Credit: Eva Rinaldi

Even still, with an estimated net worth of $120 million, it’s not like Abrams needs the money. Thus, the terms of the new deal are likely going to be important beyond salary. What’s probably more important to him is the creative freedom he needs to develop his own stories while still being able to work his magic on established franchises.

Sure, the money will be important (especially for the employees of Bad Robot), but what will win Abrams’s business is not the deal that just shovels the most money at him. So, what does that mean? Will Abrams go for another studio or maybe even a streaming giant?

What Studios Are In the Running?

The negotiations for Abrams’s new deal are in full swing, according to a Deadline report citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the deal pitches. The site reports that Disney and Warner Bros. are seen as the two studios who are most likely to walk away happy.

Thanks to his role in the soft reboot of the Star Wars franchise, Disney is eager to have a hit-maker like Abrams on their roster. CEO Bob Iger is reportedly very close to Abrams and eager to give him free rein to create films and shows for the studio.

However, with Lucasfilm, Pixar, Marvel, and Disney’s own studios, their yearly film slate is already very crowded. Since Warner Bros. already has a deal with Bad Robot’s TV side of the business, it also seems like a place that could use his help (especially with their troubled superhero division).

J.J. Abrams

Credit: Joi Ito, Flickr

The report also says that Universal studios is “pulling out all the stops” to win the deal, and that Apple and Netflix are both expected to make a pitch.

Amazon, the most valuable company in the world at the time of this writing, also might make a pitch because they are desperate to draw in some big, A-list talent for their Prime Video service. This would be the avenue that would give Bad Robot the most creative freedom, yet as a director used to working with $100 million-plus budgets, would streaming services really want to invest that much in a single project?

This is why Disney is seen as the ultimate favorite. Not only do they have blockbuster movie releases, but they also own ABC, a stake in Hulu, and will launch their own streaming service this year that is in need of original content. Finally, Apple is looking to enter the streaming media game, and one of their first forays is a short Alias reunion series.


Where J.J. Abrams ends up, the pressure will be on for him to deliver for his new bosses.

Right now, everything is coming up Milhouse for J.J. Abrams, and it will continue to at least until he finalizes his new deal. Currently, he’s shooting the next Star Wars film and will be working on that until its released in December. Chances are, no new deal will be formally announced until after it’s certain that film is going to be the billion-dollar bonanza its expected to be.

Yet, once he is committed to a new deal, the pressure will be on for his company to deliver a return on the investment. They will want more shows that are hits like Westworld instead of forgettable series like Showtime’s Roadies. Still, Abrams has proven he knows what he’s doing. Whichever big media giant he eventually calls home, will almost certainly be glad to have him.

What do you think? Where do you think Abrams and Bad Robot will land? Let us know, along with your thoughts, reactions, and favorite Bad Robot properties in the comments below. Don’t forget to share the article on social media if you enjoyed it!

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