In the next few weeks, Netflix will unwrap two box-fresh British imports.
“Black Mirror,” a dystopian drama from the authorial voice of Charlie Brooker, will launch on October 21. Then, on November 4, Peter Morgan’s lavish royal family drama “The Crown” makes its Netflix debut.
Both are made by British companies (House of Tomorrow and Left Bank Pictures respectively) and have British talent writ large on and off-screen. And there’s more on the way.
The US online video service revealed on Wednesday it has 30 original projects at various stages of development in the UK. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the Brits are taking over Netflix.
So why the fascination with British content? Well, chief content officer Ted Sarandos cast some light on the matter last month at the Royal Television Society conference in London.
“We find we’ve had such success with British programming in the US and around the world,” he explained, revealing that ready-made dramas including “Peaky Blinders” and “Happy Valley” have performed well for the company.
Turning to a British company for a Netflix original was an obvious next step. Left Bank Pictures led the charge with “The Crown” commission in 2014 — a piece of business that was said to be worth £100 million ($122 million) to the Sony-owned production outfit.
“Netflix is all about getting s–t hot, brilliant, compelling content to their subscribers and the UK has one of the most creative production sectors in the world,” said John McVay, the chief executive of UK production sector trade body Pact. “We punch way above our weight.”
British TV director James Hawes is overseeing the final episode of “Black Mirror,” a feature-length special called “Hated in the Nation.” He said the distinctiveness of UK programming is driving demand from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
“The hunger for British content is because the best of it is thought to be world-class distinctive,” he explained. “They love the uniqueness of our authorial voices and our confidence as storytellers.”
Netflix poached “Black Mirror” from Channel 4 and Hawes said working with the online video company was “fantastic.” He said the firm was a useful creative ally, with an executive helping on-set for a week during his shoot, and it is “rewarding” to see the marketing power Netflix is putting behind the project.
Pre-production on a second series of “Black Mirror” has already begun, while Netflix has also backed another season of “The Crown.” What’s more, the company is hiring UK programming executives to further strengthen its ties with British producers over the coming months.
Sarandos said last month: “We’ll have a few folk here to start working with local producers as we ramp up both our original productions in the UK and our co-production partnerships.”
Netflix’s earnings showed that it employed 13 British staff in 2015, an increase on the one employee operating in the UK the year before. These 13 staff are all involved in marketing activity, so the addition of programme commissioners cements the UK’s position as Netflix’s most important market outside of the US.
The Brits are coming for Netflix — and they plan on sticking around.