- Netflix has begun to explore live programming, according to the company.
- The company has a small group of engineers beginning to work on live-streaming capabilities.
- Early live programming would likely focus on reality and competition shows and standup specials.
has begun exploring live programming, according to the company, committing a small group of engineers to begin working on live-
capabilities and telling independent producers it wants to figure out its place in the medium. The move comes as the Walt Disney Co. has shifted longtime ABC Network staple “Dancing With the Stars” exclusively to Disney+ for this fall as the streamer’s first-ever live series.
Netflix is in the very early stages of developing live capabilities. But given that other streamers, including NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Amazon Prime Video, are already live-streaming a limited number of events, the arrival of behemoth players Disney+ and Netflix to the live category should accelerate demand for real-time programming on streaming platforms.
This trend could also mark the beginning of the end for traditional linear TV, where live events and competitions have helped broadcast and cable networks maintain relevance.
Netflix, for now, is only looking to “eventize” certain programs with a live component, as one company insider put it. That might mean something along the lines of a live “Selling Sunset” reunion or a live-stream of future Netflix Is a Joke comedy events.
And with Netflix hunting for its own competition series akin to NBC’s “The Voice,” as Insider previously reported, a live element could draw fresh viewers as well as spark interest among its subscriber base and prevent households from canceling their memberships.
One producer who has worked with Netflix points to sports as a logical live arena for the streamer, particularly following the breakout popularity of “Drive to Survive,” which has been credited with increasing awareness of Formula1 in the US. But given that broadcast rights for most major leagues have already been locked into long-term deals, televised live sports would likely prove to be a tougher nut for Netflix to crack.
Insiders at the company said sports are not part of Netflix’s initial set of live programming goals. (Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently nodded to the future potential for a standalone ESPN streamer that would carry the cable network’s programming, which would quickly become a dominant player.)
Multiple industry insiders noted that talk of live programming at Netflix had bubbled up among their contacts at the streamer only in recent weeks. Many speculated that the company was revving up plans in reaction to its dismal Q1 earnings report in April, which reflected slowing growth and an internal forecast of 2 million subscriber losses in Q2. Netflix on Tuesday laid off 150 full-time employees along with 70 contracted animation workers and 60-70 social media and publishing channel contractors.
A person familiar with Netflix’s thinking denied that the foray into live was a reaction to earnings. But one longtime agent at a major agency told Insider they were not aware of the streamer’s live ambitions, despite being in routine communication with the company and its producers, until a Deadline story about the move published last Friday.
Netflix’s reality and unscripted teams are familiar with the live space. The streamer’s unscripted originals chief, Brandon Riegg, spent well over a decade working on alternative TV programming (as reality, competition, talk and game shows are known in the industry) at NBCUniversal, ABC, and VH1 before he made the leap to the streamer .
Several reality and unscripted producers who spoke to Insider highlighted Netflix’s willingness to try new things.
“You can experiment at Netflix,” said one who has made a series with the streamer. Compared to the legacy broadcast networks that seem set in their ways, this person added, “at least they have the appetite for experimentation.”