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How Shonda Rhimes Became Television’s $135 Million Showrunner

Shonda Rhimes left ABC for Netflix last year—a move that landed her a seven-figure check. (Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

When Shonda Rhimes signed an estimated $100 million, four-year pact with Netflix last year, she didn’t just make history as one of the first showrunners to ink an exclusive deal with the streaming service, she also pocketed an on-the-spot eight figure check. It was just the latest victory in a headline-making career that has made her one of the wealthiest women in TV. Even though she has only pocketed a small piece of the earnings from the Netflix deal, she is already worth an estimated $135 million, making her the wealthiest female showrunner (person who oversees writing and production of each TV episode) in the U.S.

Rhimes’ net worth derives nearly entirely from the cash she’s earned through her years at ABC, which is home to hit series Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, all created by Rhimes’ company Shondaland, which also produced the shorter-lived series The Catch and Private Practice. In addition to fees for each episode she produced of those shows—over 317 episodes for Grey’s, alone—Rhimes earned $10 million a year from ABC for the last three years and at least 10% of the profit from when Grey’s, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Private Practice were syndicated or sold to streaming services for about $1 million an episode. In total, Rhimes’ series have reportedly generated at least $2 billion in revenue for ABC’s owner Disney from advertising, syndication sales and international licensing.

Forty-eight-year-old Rhimes, who grew up in Chicago as the child of a college professor and university administrator, came from a family that emphasized reading. Originally she thought she wanted to be a novelist, but after seeing Whoopi Goldberg on Broadway

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