Netflix keeps disrupting the TV status quo

Exterior view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (Photo credit: AP photo by Paul Sakuma)

Exterior view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (Photo credit: AP photo by Paul Sakuma)

By Rob Owen
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — With more than 65 million subscribers worldwide, online streaming service Netflix continues to disrupt TV’s historical status quo with buzzworthy hits “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” “Marvel’s Daredevil” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

Along the way there have been a few critical duds — “Marco Polo” and “Hemlock Grove,” most notably — but even those series were popular enough with Netflix subscribers to win renewals.

It’s less than three years since Netflix debuted its first original series — “Lilyhammer,” recently canceled after three seasons — and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the service expects to roll out 16 scripted dramas, nine original documentaries, three documentary series, 12 comedy specials and 17 children’s series in 2015 for a total of 475 hours of original programming in the United States.

In that time, Netflix pioneered the where-you-want, when-you-want format of releasing all episodes of a season in one day, something that has been copied elsewhere (“Hashtag ‘Aquaruis’,” Sarandos joked of NBC’s experiment of putting all episodes of “Aquaruis” online before the show aired on TV).

Netflix picked up “Longmire” after A&E canceled it because its audience skewed old; Netflix will roll out the show’s fourth season Sept. 10.

“There’s no real policy that a show has to check off these boxes to make it (of interest to Netflix), but there are a couple things we look for,” Sarandos said of picking up network cast-offs.

“Sometimes a show is canceled not because it’s run out of creative steam but because it attracted the wrong audience demographic to sell ads to, which was the case with ‘Longmire.’”

Netflix notoriously releases no data on how many people are watching its shows but Sarandos said none of its programs is expected to draw the entire Netflix subscriber base but to draw the audience segment targeted. He hinted that “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Marvel’s Daredevil” may be the best performers based on their cultural impact. (Several more Marvel series are in the works, including “Jessica Jones,” due late this year, to be followed by new Marvel content — a new series or subsequent seasons of a Marvel show — every six months.)

On Tuesday Netflix renewed animated comedy “BoJack Horseman” for a third season and announced it will premiere a stand-up comedy special Oct. 16 starring Anthony Jeselnik, who hosts NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”

“Master of None,” a new comedy series starring Aziz Ansari (“Parks and Recreation”) debuts Nov. 6. Ansari plays an indecisive 30-year-old New York actor in the show that also will star H. Jon Benjamin, the voice of the title character on FX’s “Archer.” Benjamin also stars in Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” a prequel to the 2001 cult film comedy, debuting on the service Friday.

Upcoming documentaries include “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” a look at the sound and influences of the rock star, debuting Sept. 18.

Sarandos said Netflix has no interest in sports programming (“today the real benefit of watching on Netflix is the consumer control and not the group think of it”). There are plans for a new season of “Arrested Development,” but no deals have been finalized.

The first episode of the “Full House” follow-up series “Fuller House” taped last week — Sarandos said original series stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are “teetering” on returning as guest stars — and will air on Netflix even though the service does not stream episodes of the original show.

“It’s a really unique show in the culture in that it never really went away,” he said. “It’s been very successful in syndication and it’s very cross-generational with parents watching it with their kids. We’re very excited about co-viewing, which is rare in television today. It’s very much in the same spirit but with a modern take on ‘Full House.’”

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