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Why You Might Not Even Notice Ryan Murphy’s Move to Disney

Murphy's franchises aren't going anywhere, so Netflix and Disney will continue to share him.
  • Ryan Murphy (Photo: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)
    Ryan Murphy (Photo: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)

    Ryan Murphy is making headlines with another blockbuster deal. After leaving 20th Century Fox in 2018 for Netflix in a massive $300 million deal, Murphy is now ditching Netflix for the conglomerate that acquired 20th Century Fox. Murphy will reportedly leave Netflix when his five-year contract expires at the end of June for the greener pastures of Disney, potentially reuniting with his friend and former 20th Century Fox TV head Dana Walden, who is now co-chairman of Disney Entertainment.

    Disney also owns FX, which was where Murphy developed shows like Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story, the latter of which remains a going concern — its 12th season is expected to premiere sometime this summer. The continuation of American Horror Story is a reminder that while these blockbuster deals matter a great deal for Ryan Murphy's bank account and certainly inform where all of his new ideas will be developed going forward, this won't exactly rattle the foundations of the earth for the regular TV watcher.

    Murphy departed the Fox umbrella five years ago. In that time, FX has aired four seasons of American Horror Story, one season of American Crime Story, and three seasons of Pose, not to mention the American Horror Stories spinoff for the now-defunct FX on Hulu. Meanwhile, in that same span, Fox aired six seasons of the Murphy-produced 9-1-1 and four seasons of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Murphy was under his Netflix contract that entire time, but due to the nature of preexisting deals and ongoing franchises, Murphy's five-year output elsewhere was nothing short of robust.

    Now that Murphy is leaving Netflix for Disney, he'll be leaving a similar trail of shows at his old streaming haunt. His first truly huge hit for Netflix, Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, is currently being expanded into a franchise. Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menéndez Story is expected to be released in 2024, with another season of Monster also ordered. The Watcher, Murphy's second Netflix hit of 2022, got the order for a second season back in November 2022, though it's currently not known whether that will be a proper continuation of the first season or if Murphy plans to anthologize the series. For several years there has also been talk of Murphy developing a limited series adaptation of A Chorus Line for Netflix. Even Ratched, the 2020 series that purported to tell the backstory of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's villainous nurse, is still not officially canceled, though there's been no news about a second season for quite a while.

    That a superstar producer like Ryan Murphy would have so many irons in the fire — and thus so many pre-existing deals that will need to be honored after he makes the jump to Disney — isn't particularly unusual. But the nature of the way Murphy works makes him particularly difficult to house under just one corporate roof. The American Horror Story franchise has outlived the entirety of the Netflix deal. As will American Crime Story, if the proposed fourth season based on the rise and fall of Studio 54 ever comes to pass.

    Murphy's affinity for anthology series means that his various franchises can continue for years. His penchant for sifting through America's sordid past for subject matter now has multiple outlets for development. The Menéndez series could have just as easily fit into the American Crime Story framing as it does into Monster’s. A proposed season of American Horror Story may well be fodder for a future season of The Watcher instead. For the regular viewer, especially one who's subscribed to both Netflix and the Disney bundle, it won't make much difference where these stories end up.

    Ryan Murphy's creative attentions can never seem to sit still. American Crime Story is a prime example of an anthology where years can pass in between installments. He's got a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration and has been given a limitless corporate checkbook to pursue it. The resulting shows have varied wildly in terms of quality, but Murphy has retained his gift for grabbing attention. We'll likely be seeing the tendrils of his Netflix shows for years to come, just as we're still seeing his FX shows. The name on the contract changes, but Ryan Murphy TV stays the same.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Ryan Murphy, Netflix, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, The Watcher, American Crime Story Franchise, American Horror Story Franchise, Disney