TV Article

The Next Phase for Netflix

After a disastrous 2011, the streaming service is ramping up a slate of original shows, including a Kevin Spacey thriller and — yes! — new episodes of ''Arrested Development''

It's not TV, it's... Netflix?

In the wake of a rough 2011 that saw the nonlaunch of Qwikster and an exodus of customers, the video-delivery service appears to be on the path to recovery (it added 610,000 subscribers during the fourth quarter of last year) and is focused on the next phase of its evolution: original programming. On Feb. 6, Netflix launched its first series, Lilyhammer, which stars Steven Van Zandt as a mobster hiding in Norway. Intriguingly, all eight episodes were released simultaneously. Lilyhammer is the first of five shows the company is planning to introduce by the end of 2013, in an attempt to grow its 24.4 million subscriber base with original programming — a strategy that puts it in competition with HBO and Showtime. ''It's television worth paying for, which is the way HBO differentiated themselves early on,'' says Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos.

Of course, whether it works will depend on the quality of the shows. Later this year, Netflix is set to introduce House of Cards, a 26-episode adaptation of a British political thriller, starring Kevin Spacey. (YouTube and Hulu are also getting into the scripted game; the latter's first series, Battleground, debuted Feb. 14.) If anything can be a game changer for Netflix, it's the return of Arrested Development. The company outbid Showtime and reportedly paid an estimated $3 million for each episode; the series is scheduled to air in 2013. Also reportedly in the works are women's-prison comedy Orange Is the New Black and a horror series from Eli Roth (Hostel). Sarandos won't say if all the episodes of Netflix's new shows will also be released simultaneously, but given audiences' increasing appetite for binge viewing, it would make sense. ''TV wants to keep you strung out,'' he says of the Lilyhammer strategy. ''We just want to get you hooked.''

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You
A quick look at some of the fresh shows that Netflix is creating for its subscribers

Lilyhammer
In an innovative move, all eight episodes of this dramedy about a New York mobster who's lying low in Scandinavia were released on the same day.

House of Cards
David Fincher is exec-producing this 26-episode series about a ruthless politician (Kevin Spacey), which is due later this year.

Arrested Development
Netflix won't say much about the eagerly awaited return of the beloved Bluth clan, but the original cast has signed on. Come on!

Orange Is the New Black
Weeds creator Jenji Kohan is reportedly working on an adaptation of Piper Kerman's 2010 prison memoir.

Originally posted Feb 24, 2012 Published in issue #1196 Mar 02, 2012 Order article reprints