Netflix's first foray into original programming, the Steven Van Zandt mobster dramedy "Lilyhammer," premiered on February 6. Now, just a week later, has the identity of Netflix's second original series leaked already?
Citing a "person with knowledge of the situation," Bloomberg's Cliff Edwards reports that Netflix has picked up 13 episodes of a show called "Orange Is The New Black."
Based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, the comedy takes place in a minimum security women's prison and reportedly comes from Jenji Kohan, the creator of Showtime's popular suburban drug dramedy "Weeds."
When reached for comment, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said of the Bloomberg report: "That's speculation and we don't comment on speculation."
What is not speculation is that Netflix considers itself a competitor to HBO (CEO Reed Hastings has called the premium cable company's on-demand service, HBO Go, Netflix's primary competition) and is ratcheting up its original programming in order to compete.
Though Netflix does not imagine itself becoming primarily an original programmer -- Swasey once told me that Netflix's foray into original content was "something between a test or an experiment and a full-fledged initiative" -- it has certainly made some splashy acquisitions in recent months. These include the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey-project "House of Cards" and a fourth season of the cult classic "Arrested Development."
It's well-known that Netflix expects to have five shows streaming exclusively by 2013. Three of these titles are now known: "Arrested Development," "House of Cards," and "Lilyhammer." If the Bloomberg report is correct, "Orange Is The New Black" will be the fourth, and a horror series from Eli Roth called "Hemlock Grove" is widely expected to be the fifth. When asked about a timeframe for the announcement of Netflix's fourth and fifth shows, Swasey told me the streaming giant would announce new shows "when [they] announce them."
In other words, no public timeframe.
The extent to which Netflix continues to pour money into original programming likely depends on how well its first batch of original shows does -- which is, incidentally, another thing the company will not comment on. On February 7, the day after Lilyhammer's Netflix premiere, Netflix Chief Content Officer sent out an email statement to reporters about Netflix releasing viewing ratings:
Many of you have asked us to disclose day-after viewership numbers for our new original series "Lilyhammer," which Netflix members in the U.S., Canada and Latin America could watch instantly beginning yesterday. Let me explain why we won't.
We have over 23 million streaming members and they'll have the opportunity to discover Lilyhammer not just yesterday, today or this week, but over the course of several years. Some members have loved the show so much that they've already watched the entire eight-episode first season; we put all the episodes up at once for that reason. Over time, other members will hear about Lilyhammer from their friends or discover it through our recommendation engine, based on the shows and movies they've enjoyed in the past.
...We don't show commercials so we don't have to deliver audience numbers to advertisers.
In other words, we'll know how well "Lilyhammer," "House of Cards" and the like are doing based on whether or not Netflix orders more episodes.
For now, we must be content with the rumor of Jenji Kohan's new series, "Orange Is The New Black." Kohan previously served as producer on the popular series "Weeds," "Gilmore Girls," and "Tracey Takes On." Will "Orange" strike gold on the big red website? We'll have to wait and see.
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