ABC landed a big hit with the political action thriller Scandal, featuring Kerry Washington in the lead role as political “fixer” Olivia Pope. Created by Shonda Rhimes, Scandal and her other show, Grey’s Anatomy, bring in $13 million in ad revenue each week for the network. Combined, Rhimes’ programs account for nearly $300 million dollars in revenue each season, which makes her ABC’s top money maker in the drama department.
Forbes profiled Rhimes in an interview that appear in the May 27, 2013 issue of the magazine. At 43, Rhimes is one of the few Black “showrunners” working in television today that has enjoyed lasting success. With the gains of cable programming, streaming video services and DVR viewing, networks have been losing audiences and the coveted advertising revenue that goes with it. However, Rhimes remains humble about her influence despite the gains she’s made at ABC, which is owned by Disney.
“It’s not like I’ve got this power so I’m going to stomp around doing whatever I want,” Rhimes, who reportedly earned $12 million this year, tells Forbes. “The power is that the network trusts me.”
That trust was earned the hard way. Before hitting it big, the Chicago native toiled about in Hollywood as a fledgling screenwriter in the late ’90s. After several small gigs and various random jobs, Rhimes caught a break in 1999 while working on HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.
From there, she worked on a variety of scripts before pitching hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy to ABC in 2003. The show debuted in the spring of 2005 and by the end of its first run, it was averaging 20 million viewers per week. To compare numbers, Scandal currently averages a formidable eight million viewers per week and the total seasonal ad revenue numbers account for 5 percent of ABC’s yearly earnings.
Now that’s power.
Photo: Ethan Pines