LA Screenings Feedback

U.S. comedies have harder time than dramas traveling internationally. But strong showings by new half-hour series at the broadcast upfronts last week were followed by solid performances at this week’s L.A. Screenings, where international buyers gather to sample the new crop of U.S. series. Upfront standouts — Warner Bros.-produced CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls and the 20th TV comedies New Girl (Fox) and Apt. 23 (ABC) — did very well. Two ambitious drama pilots set in the past, 20th/Fox Terra Novaand Sony/ABC’s Pan Am dazzled buyers though there were questions about the series living up to their pilots. On the drama side, also hot were the Warner Bros./J.J. Abrams-produced Person Of Interest (CBS) and Alcatraz (Fox), NBC’s Broadway drama Smash and fairytale procedural Grimm, ABC’s horror thriller The River, the Inception-flavored, mind-bending 20th/NBC drama Awake, Sony/CBS’ procedural Unforgettable, ABC’s soap Good Christian Belles and the Warner Bros./Kevin Williamson witch drama for the CW The Secret Circle. Secret Circle has been especially appealing to networks which already have the Williamson-produced CW drama The Vampire Diaries as the two series appear to be very compatible. (CW too will air them back-to-back on Thursdays.) A couple of pilots scored on the strength of their leads, including CBS’ A Gifted Man starring Patrick Wilson and CW’s Ringer starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Once again cable series also are having strong showings. After impressing international buyers withBoardwalk Empire last year, HBO was back wowing ’em this year with the new Michael Mann/David Milch drama Luck starring international stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. And 2 upcoming USA series, Suits and Necessary Roughness, also did well. While important for international buyers, L.A. Screenings are not an actual marketplace where foreign networks bid for new U.S. series. That only applies to the U.K. and Canadian markers. In most of the other territories, the new series will fall under existing output deals, so local programmers are coming to view what is coming their way next season.



Can’t Find it on Netflix On-Line? Here’s Why

Reed Hastings has a message for anyone looking for a comprehensive catalog of streaming movies and TV shows: Don’t go to Netflix.

Speaking at the All Things D conference in California, the Netflix founder and CEO celebrated his company’s success and outlined its ambitions, but he also stressed its limitations. In May, Netflix found its share of U.S. broadband traffic was larger than that of the file-sharing service BitTorrent for the first time. And Hastings has plans to launch his streaming service around the world, country by country, starting with Canada.

“We have an opportunity to build a very large global company,” he said. “All of those 5 billion people [with mobile devices] like video.”

But Hastings does not think Netflix can ever afford to make that streaming video selection — Netflix Instant — comprehensive. Despite the growing amount of content that is available for streaming, the company does not expect to have a complete “watch now” library. The licensing fees are simply too pricey for its business model.

“At $7.99 a month, we can’t provide unlimited content,” Hastings said. “We compete for a very specific and small part of the pie. We don’t have everything, but we have a great bargain. That’s what we want the brand proposition to be … Apple and Amazon are very good at being comprehensive.”

Indeed, when an audience member asked Hastings about a specific movie he couldn’t find on Netflix, Hastings testily directed him to pay for it on iTunes or Amazon.

Netflix is facing increasing financial pressure from its providers, who are noting how much profit the service is making from their content. For example, Netflix’s 2008 deal with the Starz network cost $30 million; analysts claim its renewal will cost $200 million, or 6% of Netflix’s revenue. Hastings did not dispute this cost estimate.

The online movie giant may have seemed like it was moving into the content-making business itself after a well-publicized deal in March to make House of Cards with Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher. But Hastings stressed that Netflix was just the distribution arm of that deal. “We’re just a channel,” he said. “The only difference with this content is it’s exclusive.”