Call it the “Big Little Lies” effect.
Within the space of 45 minutes on Monday night, there were separate announcements that Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, stars of the Emmy Award-winning HBO series, will serve as executive producers and stars of two new projects.
Ms. Witherspoon struck a deal to adapt the best-selling novel “Little Fires Everywhere,” by Celeste Ng, as a limited series for the streaming service Hulu. Ms. Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, initiated the project and will produce it in conjunction with Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street and ABC Signature Studios. In addition to Ms. Witherspoon, the show will star Ms. Washington, the actress best known for her work on the ABC series “Scandal.”
Ms. Kidman reached an agreement with HBO with her project, a limited series called “The Undoing,” based on the novel “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz. The veteran television hitmaker David E. Kelley, who has written every episode of “Big Little Lies,” will produce the show with Ms. Kidman, along with Bruna Papandrea, Ms. Witherspoon’s former producing partner.
In the year since “Big Little Lies” premiered, Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Kidman have moved a number of projects toward production, including a second season of “Big Little Lies,” for which they persuaded Meryl Streep to join the cast.
The two Oscar winners’ move into the ranks of powerful producers has been helped along by an entertainment industry that has changed dramatically with the entry of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Apple into the realm of big-budget series. The streaming platforms, eager to upend the old television order, are hungry for stars and spending freely to get them. HBO must join the competition if it hopes to maintain its position as a premium cable outlet for A-list programming.
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.