Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Benefit From the Streaming Wars


The limited-series genre has been a hit with movie stars who prefer not to be tied into programs that can last for years. It is also popular with demanding audiences that may lose patience with a show at the first sign of narrative drift.

Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Kidman are also taking advantage of an industry motivated by the #metoo and #timesup movements to do a better job of telling stories of strong, complex women, in a space that has long been dominated by scowling male detectives, goofy sitcom dads and tortured antiheroes.

In an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, Ms. Witherspoon said that it was not until last September’s Emmys ceremony — during which “Big Little Lies” won multiple awards — that her phone started ringing in earnest.

“I think it just clicked in people’s minds that this works economically and critically and that it was very well received,” Ms. Witherspoon said.

Amazon, Hulu and Apple all showed serious interest in “Little Fires Everywhere,” but Hulu came through with the best offer.

The platform — which is owned jointly by The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner — has some wind at its back after the success of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which became the first streaming show to win an Emmy for best series.

Hulu’s guerrilla marketing efforts for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which included sending women dressed in red cloaks to walk around New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Tex., particularly impressed Ms. Witherspoon’s team.

It probably didn’t hurt that ABC Signature Studios, a co-producer of the series, is owned by Disney, which will be the majority owner of Hulu if its planned acquisition of 21st Century Fox wins government approval.

“Hulu has a rich history of transforming groundbreaking literature into groundbreaking television, and we are confident that their talented team will use this story to spur a long-overdue dialogue around race, class and what it means to be a mother,” Ms. Witherspoon said in a statement.

In addition to her deals with HBO and Hulu, Ms. Witherspoon is producing three shows for Apple — a series about a morning show, with Jennifer Aniston; a drama starring Octavia Spencer; and a comedy starring Kristen Wiig.

The loser in Monday night’s pair of deals is ad-supported television. None of the broadcast networks or cable channels with critically acclaimed fare, like FX or AMC, were seriously involved in the bidding for “Little Fires Everywhere” or “The Undoing.” Show creators like sending their work out into the world without commercial interruptions.

In the new Hollywood — where Apple is handing out fat checks and Netflix has given huge deals to Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy — creative producers are in very high demand.

All they have to do now is make binge-worthy shows.

Continue reading the main story


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here