EXCLUSIVE: The Get Down was expected to be an expensive proposition from the get-go and Netflix knew it. The series from Academy Award-winning husband-wife team of Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, Pulitzer-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, hip-hop historian Nelson George and iconic rappers MC Nas and Grandmaster Flash was expected to cost around $11 million per episode for 12 episodes, which all-in would have totaled about $120M.
However, Deadline has learned that given the way the deal is constructed, Netflix is paying more like $16M per episode — inclusive in the total is worldwide rights to the IP, and factored into that are the premiums that Netflix paid to acquire those rights exclusively.
Other costs include start-up, visual effects, music rights and production design. Of the $16 million, around $11 million was the final production expenses per episode, $3 million-$4 million over the initial budget following a string of filming shutdowns, staffing changes and script rewrites. When a TV drama is produced for $6M or higher an episode, it is considered expensive.
So adding in all the costs on The Get Down, including the worldwide rights and premiums, that brings the total for the 12-episode season closer to the $190M-plus range. They are not completely wrapped yet either.
The Get Down is not a runaway hit the way Netflix’s pop culture phenom Stranger Things has been. Stranger Things ranks No. 3 on Symphony Advanced Media’s chart for viewings among 18- to 49-year-olds; The Get Down is No. 14.
However, Netflix’s strategy for many of its original series is to target specific, often under-served segments of the audience as a way of expanding its subscriber base. The Get Down is said to be the No. 1 show among African Americans and Hispanics and is building out among the young demographic as well — it has caught on with high schoolers. The Get Down is drawing in demos that other Netflix shows normally don’t, said one insider.
Internally, Netflix viewer satisfaction surveys for U.S. viewers that Deadline obtained reveal that The Get Down scored well among hip-hop fans and just slightly better with men than women. Overall, it got a 66% excellent or good rating, with concerns about the slow pacing at the onset but viewers saying that it picked up as the show progressed. The other satisfaction surveys on the show are said to be way above the norm in other countries, specifically France, Germany and Latin America.
In Netflix’s quarterly earnings call Monday, the company’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos said that their new season of content (which includes The Get Down) was traveling globally proportionally as they had hoped.
In responding to a question during the call about The Get Down and its expense versus viewership, Sarandos said, “Yes, it’s an expensive piece of television. Mostly because it’s very large scale, cinematic. The reason why Baz Luhrmann’s films work around the world is that kind of attractiveness. We’re still seeing how it’s going to unfold for the first season. All the shows land at a different level of noise in the press and probably depending on what circles you run in, whether or not your friends are talking about it. We’re very excited about how the show has been performing, particularly in a quarter where we had four shows that turned out to be kind of big event programs for us.”
The first six episodes of The Get Down‘s first season were released in August, with the remaining six set to debut in 2017. Netflix had no comment for this report.