Netflix to move into original feature docs, stand-up

US streaming service Netflix will broaden its original content strategy by moving into one-off feature documentaries and stand-up comedy, its CEO has revealed.

Reed HastingsReed Hastings (pictured) made the announcement in a letter to shareholders, in which he also claimed original content strategies adopted by streaming rivals Hulu and Amazon Prime were helping OTT platforms to become “more distinct from one another”.

Upcoming Netflix series include Ricky Gervais comedy Derek, season two of Lilyhammer, sci-fi action series Sense8 and debut kids show Turbo: F.A.S.T., but it will now move into one-off programming genres, Hastings said.

“Beyond series, we will be expanding our originals initiative to include broadly appealing feature documentaries and stand-up comedy specials. Netflix has become a big destination for fans of these much loved and often under-distributed genres.”

Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos added in an investors’ call that, “increasingly all of our original deals we’re doing globally”.

“Sometimes global plays out to our favour, and sometimes you don’t really achieve the scale of it. So right now we’re trying to weigh through that and see where we can pick up global efficiencies,” he said.

Hastings, meanwhile, was keen to emphasise how Hulu originals such as Battleground and Amazon Prime’s soon-to-launch Alpha House proved that streaming services are developing their own identities and brands.

“All are quite good and quite different,” he said. “All three services are becoming more distinct from one another, like HBO, Showtime and Starz are distinct from one another on linear TV.”

Netflix, which has so far only licensed its original content, would seek to fully own those programmes in the future as “confidence” in the model builds, he added.

“Most original programming originates in this way, which is you want to hedge your bets a little bit on building the confidence and building up before you build out the infrastructure. So you step in and do more licensing deals, which is how Showtime does most of their deals… how HBO did in their earliest days [and] how AMC did in their earliest expansions,” he said.

The news came as the company unveiled its latest financial results, which saw it record second quarter 2013 global revenue of US$1 billion, compared with US$889 million for the same period the previous year. Net income was US$29 million, up from US$6 million for the same period in 2012.

It added 660,000 domestic subscribers in Q2 2013, which lead to its share price falling as analysts had hoped its relaunch of comedy Arrested Development would lead to a larger uptick. It also added 610,000 to its international services, giving it a total of seven million paying customers outside the US.

International revenue was up 155% year-on-year US$166 million, though there was a US$66 million loss for the quarter.

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