The entertainment company spent 2014 giving unexpected gifts to devoted groups of fans. Among them, it announced it bought the global rights to Better Call Saul, AMC’s prequel to Breaking Bad; the production of a kung fu sequel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend; and four new Adam Sandler films. But these aren’t the slapdash granting of fanboy wishes. Netflix, having drawn in millions of users with its high-quality original programming, is now using its trove of data and analytics about international viewing habits to create and buy programming that transcends cultural and language barriers. “We are creating a product that really does appeal to the local tastes in each of the more than 50 countries we operate in,” says chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “And it turns out that the local taste is pretty global.”
How does it work? Adam Sandler is a good example: Despite his unimpressive U.S. box-office track record lately, Netflix’s research shows that his films are popular in areas such as Latin America—which means that in creating four new Sandler films, it just green-lighted four safe bets to capture an important market. All of its original films will stream exclusively on Netflix, of course, and forgo a theatrical release (although the new Crouching Tiger will be exhibited on IMAX theaters too). And given the many millions it will invest in projects like these, it’s reasonable to see this as a doubling down on Netflix’s vision of a new entertainment model. “In a world where consumers are now accustomed to getting what they want, where they want, when they want it,” says Sarandos, “it’s foolish to say we’re going to open this movie and you can only see it in the theater for the next year.”
Three new, original Netflix shows to be excited about in 2015:
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy, played by Ellie Kemper from The Office, has left a cult after 15 years and moved to New York City to start over.
- Grace and Frankie: From the creators of Friends and Home Improvement, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play frenemies whose husbands leave them for each other.
- Narcos: It’s the true-life story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the infamous cocaine-peddling Medellin Cartel of Colombia.
[Photo Mash Up: Joel Arbaje for Fast Company, Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures; Aziz Ansari: Andrew Baasch; Bill Burr: James Kronzer; Derek: Ray Burmistonl; Lilyhammer: Andrea Testoni; Marco Polo: Phil Bray; Daredevil: Barry Wetcher; Orange Is The New Black: JoJo Whilden, Jessica Miglio; courtesy of Netflix]