Netflix is aggressively searching for its own large-scale talent competition and a big-ticket game show as it moves into its next phase of non-scripted originals.
The streamer is looking to do more four-quadrant family entertainment shows to build on its recent reality shows such as Too Hot To Handle and Love Is Blind.
Directors of Unscripted Originals and Acquisitions Nat Grouille and Sean Hancock lifted the lid on their plans, as well as discussed release strategies and their hope to find a reality show that can run for 20 plus years in a panel session, moderated by Deadline, at the Edinburgh International TV Festival.
Grouille explained that it has been working on its non-scripted strategy for just over three years, starting with shows such as Queer Eye and Nailed It!.
“We’ve done docu-series, crime, game, all sorts of different things, we’ve reached the point where we feel very comfortable in this reality and unscripted world. We’re poised to move forward in quite an exciting way into these white spaces with shows that we don’t have on the service. Do we have a big game show? Not yet. Do we have a talent singing show? Not yet. There’s a lot of momentum. We’ve learned a lot of lessons, we’ve had a lot of hits and a lot of misses and got to a point where we are starting to understand the audience a little better,” he said.
The streamer has dipped its toe into both genres with the likes of game shows Awake: The Million Dollar Game from Victoria Ashbourne’s Hello Dolly and Flinch from Stellify Media and competition formats Rhythm + Flow and upcoming Tituss Burgess-fronted karaoke format Sing On! but it is yet to have a bona fide breakout in either world.
Hancock added, “One thing is we could probably do more of is that four quadrant family entertainment, which we probably haven’t done enough of yet. That’s one area that we want to crack because that’s where you get the really big, culturally zeitgeist hits. The kind of show that you could explain to a caveman and they’d get it. When you’re gliding through Netflix, you’ve probably got a couple of seconds to catch someone’s attention.”
Grouille said that the digital platform wants shows with “something to say” that “feel urgent”. He said it would love to find “giant resonant” formats. “It’s like we’re in the golden age that we were in 15 years ago where people could come with shows that were just great ideas and what ifs. So, for instance, what if people had to live on an island? That’s Survivor. What if people all lived in a house and you could watch? That’s Big Brother. We’re looking at all the areas for those big what if questions.”
Netflix has been experimenting with different release schedules for its non-scripted originals, particularly Love Is Blind and Rhythm + Flow. Hancock said it is expanding on this approach after these initial tests. “Now we’re trying to think much more strategically about that and when we’re interested in buying a show we’ll challenge the producer to think ‘How would this work as a staggered release? What would be those big hooks be at the end?’ You don’t just want to give one episode. I think people on Netflix expect a bit more than that, so maybe it’s two or three episodes and then how do you structure your series so you have big dramatic moments so people remember. It’s a competitive landscape and you need to give them a really good reason to come back. It’s not right for everything but it’s definitely something we’re looking at and thinking ‘How can we more creatively release these shows?’”
Reality television has been responsible for some evergreen linear shows over the last 20 years from Big Brother to Survivor. Given Netflix’s predilection for ending shows after around three seasons, there’s been some question marks as to whether the streamer would similarly keep shows on the air for multiple seasons.
Grouille said, “It’s such a lot of hard work to get a format up and running that we’d love a show to run for 20, 25 years. Thankfully, we’re in a nice position where we don’t have limited shelf space so it’s not as if you can’t do Love Is Blind for ever and then also do two or three other big dating formats. The intention is definitely to build for the future and to broaden out from the franchises, what can you spin-off, what can you create, what sort of ecosystem can you make?,” he said.
These shows might not look the same every season, according to Hancock. He said, “I think for shows to survive on Netflix, there’ll be more changes season over season to keep it fresh. We do live in an era where that is so important. There is a sense of what’s new. Absolutely, we want shows to run for a long time but I think they’ll change more than they would have in linear TV.”
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