News Column

Netflix Will Flex Its Creative Muscles Further

August 5, 2014

By Gary Levin, @GaryMLevin, USA TODAY

Netlfix says it will step up the amount of original programming it produces for by 2016. (file photo)
Netlfix says it will step up the amount of original programming it produces for by 2016. (file photo)

Netflix is still a new player in original programming, but with 31 Emmy nominations, it's besting the likes of Showtime in the awards derby. Now it's plotting a "pretty massive step up" in new shows by 2016 while venturing into new genres, says chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

As the service, which has 50 million subscribers worldwide, readies launches in France and Germany, five new series based on Marvel characters are in the works, led by Daredevil next year; Chelsea Handler is moving her act online, with a stand-up special Oct. 10, a docuseries and a weekly talk show in 2016; and Netflix's first push into "adult" cartoons, BoJack Horseman, arrives Aug. 22, with Will Arnett and Aaron Paul.

On the drama front, historical fantasy Marco Polo is due late this year. And in 2015, look for new seasons of House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black; Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as Grace and Frankie, whose husbands fall in love, in a comedy from the co-creator of Friends; Sense 8, a sci-fi series from the Wachowskis (The Matrix) about a group of telepathically connected strangers; and an untitled family drama starring Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek and Kyle Chandler.

Sarandos is also "positive" that another season of cult comedy Arrested Development is in the offing. "It's just a matter of when," he says, adding that scheduling is a concern: It was "a fair criticism" of last year's revival "that the cast didn't appear on-screen often enough together."

He won't talk numbers but says he's surprised by "the size and scope of Orange and how mainstream it's become" as the most popular of Netflix's original series, which will account for 10% of its programming budget.

Netflix won't go after sports -- "the strength of our brand is on-demand," Sarandos says -- and has become less aggressive in pursuing older network series, allowing Amazon and Hulu to snap them up. HBO "didn't seek a competitive bid from us" before selling titles to Amazon.

But he'd "love to do" a traditional comedy such as The Big Bang Theory and sees acerbic comedian Handler as a big step away from the binge model. "Chelsea points to a format we think can be reworked in a way that's fresher, even if it's not live."

Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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