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Netflix is ​​exploring live programming, a new arena in Streaming Wars

  • Netflix has started exploring live programming, according to the company.
  • The company has a small group of engineers starting work on live streaming features.
  • Early live programming would likely focus on reality and competition shows and standup specials.

Netflix

has begun researching live programming, according to the company, and has commissioned a small group of engineers to begin work on live programming.


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skills and tells independent producers it wants to figure out its place in the medium. The move comes as The Walt Disney Co. moved long-running ABC Network staple “Dancing With the Stars” exclusively to Disney+ for this fall as the streamer’s first live series.

Netflix is ​​in the very early stages of developing live features. But with other streamers, including NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Amazon Prime Video, already live-streaming a limited number of events, the arrival of giants Disney+ and Netflix in the live category should accelerate demand for real-time programming on streaming platforms.

This trend could also mark the beginning of the end of traditional linear television, where live events and competitions have helped broadcast and cable networks remain relevant.

For now, Netflix is ​​just trying to “event” certain programs with a live component, as one company insider put it. That could mean something along the lines of a live meetup of Selling Sunset or a live stream of future Netflix Is a Joke comedy events.

And with Netflix looking to launch its own competitive series akin to NBC’s The Voice, Insider previously reported, a live element could attract new viewers, keep its subscriber base interested and discourage households from canceling their memberships.

A producer who has worked with Netflix points to sport as a logical live arena for the streamer, particularly following the breakthrough popularity of Drive to Survive, which is credited with fueling Formula One’s rise to prominence in the US. Given that broadcasting rights for most major leagues are already tied to long-term deals, live televised sports coverage would likely prove to be a tougher nut for Netflix.

Company insiders said sports are not among Netflix’s initial targets for live programming. (Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently nodded to the future potential of a standalone ESPN streamer that would carry programming on the cable network that would quickly become a dominant player.)

Several industry insiders noted that talks about live programming on Netflix had only surfaced among their contacts at the streamer in the past few weeks. Many speculated that the company lifted its plans in response to its dismal first-quarter earnings report in April, which reflected slowing growth and an internal forecast of 2 million subscriber losses in the second quarter. Netflix on Tuesday laid off 150 full-time employees, as well as 70 contracted animation workers and 60-70 social media and publishing channel contractors.

One person familiar with Netflix’s mindset denied that the outing in life was a revenue response. But a longtime major agency agent told Insider he was unaware of the streamer’s live ambitions, although he was in routine communication with the company and its producers until a Deadline story about the move was released last Friday.

Netflix’s reality and unscripted teams are familiar with the live space. Brandon Riegg, the streamer’s head of non-scripted originals, spent well over a decade working on alternative television programming (as reality, competition, talk and game shows are well known in the industry) at NBCUniversal, ABC and VH1 before he made the leap to streamer.

Several reality and unscripted producers who spoke to Insider highlighted Netflix’s willingness to try new things.

“Netflix is ​​a place where you can experiment,” said one who has done a series with the streamer. Comparing that to the legacy broadcast networks, which seem deadlocked in their ways, this person added, “At least they’re keen to experiment.”

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