Look, Will Arnett is hilarious. His gravely tones are also just as romantic in person as they are on television. And he took the stage here at D:Dive Into Media 2013 alongside Mitch Hurwitz (creator of Arrested Development) and Ted Sarandos (Chief Content Officer & VP of Content at Netflix) in order to talk about the changing world of original content production. Outside of making jokes about premiums paid for getting props back in order to create a new generation of Arrested Development (seriously, they sold the Aztec Tomb "immediately," per Arnett), Hurwitz and Arnett both agreed that it's a completely different dynamic in creating television for the internet.
When producing a show for a cable or network channel, Hurwitz confessed that you have to make "flat" programming -- stuff that'll satisfy a huge, huge demographic. As in, the whole of America. With the next generation of Arrested Development, however, Netflix only needs to appeal to the demographic that digs Netflix. Sarandos affirmed that Netflix is paying all of the parties involved "network-level money," and both he and Hurwitz stated that these next episodes will truly be written by fans of the show. In other words, you can expect the quality to be exceptionally high, as there are far fewer stipulations behind the scenes.
When host Walt Mossberg asked Sarandos if Netflix was "in this for real," he stated that "in success, we'll do more." Of course, he also announced that House of Cards is now the company's "most watched program in every market that Netflix has service in, both in number of hours and in number of people." He also said that while few Netflix viewers "binge watch" and consumed every single House of Cards episode at once, a meaningful chunk of them watch at least two or three in a row. Hurwitz chimed in, noting that Netflix is "staying nimble," and doesn't have to produce a certain amount of shows each year in order to meet network demands. Sarandos also noted that since Fox owns the property, even the next episodes will eventually make their way out on DVD, onto iTunes, etc., but only after a window lapses once it's all out on Netflix.
Sarandos stopped short of telling Mossberg that Netflix is indeed going to consider itself a production company, but it's clear that the company is enjoying the experiment. And, given the restrictions that are removed when you're able to produce material for a specific and highly mobile audience, we're personally jazzed to see what kind of creativity is allowed to flourish in such a brave, new world.
We'll be reporting live from D:Dive Into Media as it continues on February 11-12. You can follow our coverage by using the "dmedia2013" tag.