BEVERLY HILLS — Netflix is still a new player in original programming, but with 31 Emmy nominations for House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and Derek, it's besting the likes of Showtime in the awards derby. Now it's plotting a "pretty massive step up" in new shows over the next two years and is venturing into new genres, says chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
As the service crossed the 50-million-subscriber mark worldwide and readies launches in France and Germany, five new series based on Marvel characters are in the works, led by Daredevils next year; Chelsea Handler is moving her act online, with a stand-up special Oct. 10, a docu-series and a weekly talk show in 2016; and Netflix's first push into "adult" cartoons, BoJack Horseman, arrives Aug. 22, voiced by 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 Cards and Orange; 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 mixed with murder starring Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek and Kyle Chandler, from the creators of Damages.
Sarandos is also "positive" that another season of Arrested Development is in the offing: "It's just a matter of when," he says, adding that sorting out actors' schedules is a concern: It was "a fair criticism" of last year's revival of the cult comedy "that the cast didn't appear on screen often enough together."
He still won't talk numbers, but he 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 rights — "the strength of our brand is on-demand," Sarandos says — and is less aggressive in pursuing rights to network series, allowing Amazon and Hulu to snap them up. HBO "didn't seek a competitive bid from us" before selling older series to Amazon.
But in addition to its focus on serialized dramas, he'd "love to do" a "classic structured" comedy such as The Big Bang Theory, and sees acerbic comedian Handler as a big step away from the all-at-once binge model. "Chelsea points to a format we think can be reworked in a way that's fresher, even if it's not live," he says, adding her new format is still being worked out. Handler will wrap up her current late-night series on E! Aug. 26, then use the gap to tour overseas, "build her brand (there) and create distance between Chelsea Lately and her show on Netflix."