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'Orange' Is the New Green at Netflix

22 Jul, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman reprise their roles for final time in detective noire 'The Killing'

Taking a cue from HBO and Starz, Netflix ramps up focus on original programing

Netflix is upping attention on originals to strengthen the brand, exert greater distribution control on content and lure subscribers, company officials reiterated July 21 in the service’s second-quarter earnings interview webcast.

The second season of critically acclaimed women’s prison dramedy “Orange Is the New Black” became the most-watched Netflix series in every territory, with many subscribers either watching for the first time or rewatching season one, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

Since its launch in 2012 of original Norwegian black comedy “Lilyhammer,” followed by “House of Cards” in 2013, Netflix said it has generated increased audience shares for original series such as Goth thriller “Hemlock Grove,” and Ricky Gervais comedy “Derek,” among others.

The company doesn’t release actual viewership data, citing the lack of marketers and advertisers traditional broadcasters must appease through ratings.

Netflix also received four of its 31 total Emmy nominations for original documentary The Square, and last May bowed doc The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

For Netflix, originals (and local fare in foreign territories, which account for up to 20% of content spend) enable the SVOD pioneer to brand itself more effectively than through Hollywood shows and movies. Indeed, AMC Network’s wildly successful “Breaking Bad” is actually marketed in the United Kingdom as a Netflix original series.

The show’s prequel, “Better Call Saul,” which features Bob Odenkirk reprising his role as ethically challenged lawyer Saul Goodman from “Breaking Bad,” is slated to air on AMC Networks in early 2015. Throughout the rest of the world, “Saul” will be a Netflix original series.

Robert Rodriguez’s horror drama “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series,” which airs in the U.S. on the El Rey cable channel, will premiere as an original on Netflix in France, Germany and Latin America.

Ditto for dark thriller “The Killing,” which AMC killed after three seasons and Netflix resurrected to stream exclusively a fourth and final season beginning Aug. 1.

The service will stream its first adult animated comedy, “BoJack Horseman,” Aug. 22 and aquatic doc Mission Blue Aug. 15.

On a larger scale, Netflix has original period series “Marco Polo” in production in Malaysia and Kazakhstan in collaboration with veteran producer Harvey Weinstein.

In the Florida Keys, the creators of “Damages” are shooting a dark family thriller starring Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, among others. “Sense8,” which Netflix describes as a “mind-bending series” from the Wachowskis (the "Matrix" trilogy, Cloud Atlas) and J. Michael Straczynski (“Babylon 5”), began production in San Francisco last month and is now in Chicago.

“We want to move a lot of our content spend to originals mostly because we have seen it has given us new brand strength as those shows have been successful. And if they continue to prove to be successful, we’ll move down that path further,” Sarandos said.


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