Netflix targets BBC family audience with Lemony Snicket remake

A Series of Unfortunate Events forms part of plan to woo audiences and add to its 90 million global subscribers

Netflix is poised to launch its take on Lemony Snicket’s dark children’s tale A Series of Unfortunate Events, targeting the family drama audience traditionally catered for by ITV and the BBC.

With The Voice and Gary Barlow-led Let It Shine battling it out on traditional TV on Saturday night, Netflix’s big budget family series, based on the bestselling children’s novels and starring How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris, enters the fray on Friday.

For Netflix the show forms part of a plan to woo audiences and add to its 90 million global subscribers, providing new opportunities for TV producers.

About 20% of Netflix’s $6bn (£4.9bn) annual programming budget will be spent on original productions this year, according to analyst estimates, with a major focus on making shows with a “multigenerational appeal”.

“These new players have a big vision and are commissioning high quality shows with big writers and big casts,” says Jane Turton, chief executive of All3Media, maker of Midsomer Murders, Shameless and Skins.

“Their plans are ambitious, creatively and commercially. It’s been a very good thing for content producers with commissioning revenues coming into the sector, especially in drama and now in factual, factual entertainment, and entertainment too.”

All3Media owns Lime Pictures, the Liverpool-based producer of Hollyoaks and The Only Way Is Essex, which is making a Netflix drama series about an American teenager’s coming-of-age adventures during a stay at a British riding stables.

This year Netflix will also make its first British children’s programmes with an adaptation of Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch series of books for pre-teens.

The challenge for traditional broadcasters, still smarting after recording the lowest-ever Christmas Day TV ratings on record, is stark.

“The growth of traditional broadcaster’s catch-up TV services has not offset the decline in people watching the night a show first airs,” says Richard Broughton, a director at Ampere Analysis.

“There are a variety of factors for the decline in TV viewing and one of those is services like Netflix. We estimate it attracts about as much viewing as Channel 5. It is fair to say they are taking some viewing.”

Netflix, which has a total TV content budget almost double that of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 combined, will be making 1,000 hours of its own programming this year, a 66% rise on the 600 hours made in 2016.

Amazon, which is estimated to have spent $3.2bn on content in 2016, also plans to double spending on video content and triple spending on original productions this year, increasing the competitive pressure on broadcasters.

“The competition is getting hotter and there is a new world order,” says one senior TV industry executive.

Netflix has built its business and reputation on drama series with adult themes, such as House of Cards and Orange is The New Black, but now it must branch out to new genres to broaden its appeal and continue to add to its 90 million global subscribers.

“Family and kids shows are the next front,” says Broughton “Now Netflix is available globally quick growth can’t be got by launching in new territories. Netflix is looking to tap into those slightly more reluctant streaming groups for growth, and family viewing is a segment it has not addressed to the full extent.”

Netflix has been spurred on by the success of shows such as Stranger Things, the family-friendly 80s-themed sci-fi horror hit, which it says “offered variety to families and content that doesn’t pander to the younger generation”.

“We don’t see a lot of premium shows made for both adults and kids,” said Brian Wright, vice president of original series at Netflix. “There [are] very few series made with a high production value for enjoyment by a broader audience, that includes families.

“When we decided to diversify our programming slate, it was very clear to us that the movie industry does a great job here. Take examples such as Star Wars, Pixar, and the Harry Potter franchise. These movies are all aimed at equal enjoyment whether you’re 10, 40 or 60 years old.”

Wright highlighted the start on production of Lost In Space, a remake of the 1960s family survival story, later this month as another example of targeting the family audience. The show will premiere next year.


The Crown/Netflix
The Crown, Netflix’s move into costume drama territory previously occupied by BBC. Photograph: Alex Bailey/Netflix

TV content spend

Netflix: $6bn (£4.9bn), about $1.2bn (£1bn) on original shows, according to analyst estimates.

Amazon: $3.2bn (£2.6bn), originals spend unknown

BBC: £1.7bn across all TV channels, just £67m spent acquiring shows (ie: non-original commissions) last year

ITV: £1bn across all TV channels, 89% of shows on ITV1 are original productions

Channel 4: £629m across all TV channels, with £455m on original productions

• This article was amended on 13 January 2017 to clarify that figures given for Netflix spending on original productions are according to analyst estimates.

Contributor

Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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