January 24, 2020

Disney’s Fox 21 gets Marta Kauffman in a first-look deal

disneys-fox-21-gets-marta-kauffman-in-a-first-look-deal
Credit: Melissa Moseley / Netflix

What was Netflix thinking, letting Marta Kauffman and her Okay Goodnight company sign a deal with Disney’s Fox 21?

It’s simple: whatever creative genius Kauffman wanted, say “yes” to and then sign the check. It’s not rocket science.

Instead, Kauffman, who was a co-creator of a little show called Friends and the creative force behind Netflix’s longest-running comedy show Grace and Frankie, is now giving the first option on any of her new content to a direct rival.

It’s a ludicrous business decision by Netflix, unless there’s something else that determined the decision — because it’s not a new sense of frugality.

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Who is Marta Kauffman?

Born in 1956, Marta Kauffman was co-creator, along with David Crane, of possibly the most popular show in the world, Friends. It’s a phenomenon, both in viewing numbers and pop culture relevance.

Outside of Friends, Kauffman also created Veronica’s Closet, Five, and Netflix’s Grace and Frankie. The latter is heading towards its final season on the streaming platform, which makes the news of Kauffman’s Fox 21 (Disney) deal even more surprising.

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Is Netflix reading their data?

Kauffman and her company, Okay Goodnight, already have a show in development, based on a Karen Thompson Walker novel called The Dreamers. It’s a story about a sleeping virus that sweeps across the fictional town of Santa Lora in Southern California.

The premise sounds very much like a Netflix show. So, the big question is, how hard did they try to get a first-look deal with Kauffman?

It’s very unlikely Disney’s Fox 21 outbid Netflix. It’s also unlikely Disney via Fox 21 will give the same freedom Netflix can. Thus, it’s likely down to Netflix seeing something in their data, or Kauffman wanting freedom from a single streaming service.

Regardless of the reason, if Kauffman ends up delivering a new Friends for Fox 21 (and Disney), this could be a deal that comes back to bite Netflix in the ass big time.

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