NATPE 2015: Netflix Aims to Launch as Many as 20 Original Series Each Year, Sarandos Says
Updated: January 22, 2015, 10:45 am ET
Miami, Fla. — Netflix aims to debut as many as 20 original series per year, said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos at NATPE in Miami on Wednesday.
“I think that we probably can launch around 20 original scripted shows a year,” he said, while speaking on a panel with two of Netflix’s most popular producers: Vince Gilligan, executive producer and creator of AMC's Breaking Bad, AMC's upcoming Better Call Saul and CBS' upcoming Battle Creek, and with Mitch Hurwitz, executive producer and creator of Arrested Development.
Netflix’s success with launching original series – particularly shows such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black – has helped spur an industry craze toward original programming. Last week, Netflix's rival streaming service, Amazon, won its first major award for an original program, taking home the Golden Globe for best comedy with Transparent.
“TV has never been better. I think the reason why TV has been able to displace movies in our culture is because distribution has never been better. Now people have no reason to miss an episode of their favorite show,” said Sarandos.
That said, Sarandos doesn’t expect to release Netflix’s original productions into syndication or to be distributed on other platforms any time soon.
“I think the exclusivity is the value,” he said. “You get more return out of growing the audience that way.”
Gilligan, whose beloved series Breaking Bad concluded in September 2013, is preparing to debut the show’s spin-off Better Call Saul on AMC on Feb. 8. It will become available on Netflix two weeks prior to the show's second-season premiere on AMC, likely in early 2016.
Gilligan, who admitted both to still being a channel surfer and to still watching SyFy’s New Year’s Day marathon of The Twilight Zone, says he’s mostly interested in telling “the kind of stories I’ve been prone to tell before, with interesting characters and rich, conflicted plots.”
And while he doesn’t concern himself too much about how his shows are being distributed, he does understand that airing Breaking Bad on Netflix contributed deeply to that Emmy-winning show’s ultimate success.
“The truth is I don’t think I’d be sitting up here right now if Netflix hadn’t started streaming our show,” Gilligan said. “With a hyper-serialized show like Breaking Bad, it’s very hard to catch up if you are watching it in typical broadcast fashion.”
Breaking Bad debuted on AMC to relatively small numbers, but the show’s audience grew every year — including in its fifth and final season — as viewers caught up in between seasons.
Arrested Development also was a critical favorite that originally aired on Fox from 2003-06. That was a bit before Netflix’s time, but fan fervor convinced the streaming service to bring it back.
“The great thing about Arrested that made it unique versus any other canceled show was that the passion for it to come back never let up,” said Sarandos. “It’s rare to see a cult following that gets more passionate and larger.”
“What Arrested Development has is rewatchability,” said Hurwitz. “The episodes were dense, and the stories were layered, referring to past episodes and future episodes. It was a message in a bottle that we tossed out there. We were hiding jokes in episode two that were going to come back in episode 16 — never knowing if it was going to be back.”
Netflix also has stepped in to save other canceled shows, including A&E's Longmire, which will premiere its fourth season on the service later this year. "That felt like show for which we could serve its passionate audience and grow it with past seasons. We're able to make that work by being aggressive and creative," Sarandos said. That also raises hopes of fans of other dead shows: "I get tons of emails, voice mails and so forth every day from people who loved Dracula and all these different shows, asking to bring it back. I still get boxes of peanuts from people asking about Jericho."
Similarly, now that Netflix has produced another 15 episodes of Arrested Development, which were posted on the service on May 26, 2013, fans are back to asking whether there will be more.
“We don’t have an update on whether there’s a second season,” Hurwitz said. “I think everybody wants to do it. It’s a complicated endeavor that involves successful actors and a studio that owns it. We’re trying to make it work. We all want it to come back.”
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.
By Kent Gibbons