Twenty new unscripted programs will push the company closer to owning all of its content.
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The good news is that Netflix plans to double its original programming next year. The bad news is that the increase will include at least 20 reality TV shows.
Chief content officer Ted Sarandos made the announcements the other day at a conference in New York, saying the unscripted programming would help broaden Netflix’s appeal in international markets.
Among the programs will be Ultimate Beastmaster, a competition show produced by Sylvester Stallone and The Biggest Loser executive producer Dave Broome.
It’s a bit of a surprising tactic given Netflix’s strategy so far. The company has done well in landing high-quality shows, ranging from critically acclaimed dramas such as Narcos and House of Cards to comedies including Master of None and Bojack Horseman.
Reality TV, on the other hand, is considered the McDonald’s of television – empty calories that are cheap to produce. These aren’t the sorts of series that get nominated for Emmy awards outside of their own category.
In the realm of traditional broadcasting, reality TV programs – especially those that are competition-based such as Survivor or The Amazing Race – also have amazingly short shelf lives.
Such programs are prized by traditional broadcasters because they need to be watched live, which means people need to subscribe to cable to avoid missing out, but they’re rarely watched after the fact. There just aren’t that many people interested in re-watching old episodes of Fear Factor or Big Brother.
That low long-term value is also at odds with the sorts of shows Netflix has traditionally commissioned.
What’s likely at play here is the company’s desire to have as much original content as possible – Sarandos said he hopes to have at least 1,000 hours of it next year.
Having the bulk of its own original content lessens Netflix’s dependence on licensing shows and movies from third parties. Those outside suppliers can – and have – decided to pull content abruptly or jack up the costs for it.
In a perfect world, Netflix would love to own 100-per-cent of its content. But it’s not going to get there without some filler.