There could be a number of reasons for this — chief among them, that Netflix is offering him more money — but it doesn’t look good for ABC Studios when its top comedy showrunner and the creator of Black-ish, Kenya Barris, is looking to get out of his deal with the network and bolt to Netflix only months after its top drama showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, got out of her pact with ABC to go to Netflix.
Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the Black-ish creator and Girls Trip writer is actively trying to get out of his overall deal with ABC Studios, his creative home since 2015. Barris, who earned a Peabody and two best comedy Emmy nominations for his ABC comedy, has three years remaining on the lucrative four-year deal he signed in 2017. Those same sources say that Barris is in preliminary talks to join Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy with a mega-deal with Netflix. “Talks are very real,” says a source of Barris’ potential move to the streaming giant.
Maybe it’s because Netflix is a better home. Maybe it’s because they offered him more money. Maybe it’s because they also offer more creative freedom.
But then again, maybe it’s because ABC refused to air the Black-ish episode discussing the kneeling controversy in the NFL. Or maybe it’s because Barris believes there is a double-standard where it concerns Roseanne, which is allowed to be decidedly political, while Black-ish is muted where it concerns political issues. Or maybe he didn’t appreciate this his edgier Black-ish spin-off, Grown-ish was moved to Freeform, or maybe it was because ABC wouldn’t greenlight his Felicity Huffman/Courtney B. Vance sitcom about politically oppositional pundits who fall in love.
Regardless of the reason, the optics for the network are not good when this news comes the day after ABC’s Roseanne took an #AllLivesMatter shot at Black-ish on its most recent episode. It also doesn’t look good when ABC loses its two most successful showrunners — who are both Black — to a streaming service.