Netflix will have a crazy number of original series and movies this year

Nearly 500 are set to premiere before the end of the year.
Nearly 500 are set to premiere before the end of the year.
Image: Reuters/Steve Marcus
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Do you love Netflix originals? Then we have some good news for you.

Netflix will have 1,000 originals on its platform by the end of 2018, says chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

The streaming-video service has been ramping up production on its own TV shows and movies since releasing its first big original, House of Cards, five years ago. Roughly half of its originals—470 series, films, and other productions—are slated to be released between now and the end of the year, the Netflix executive added at a MoffettNathanson investor event on Monday (May 15). More than 90% of Netflix subscribers watch its originals regularly, he said, though he did not define what that means.

“Original” has different meanings for Netflix, too. Some Netflix originals, like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, are licensed from other studios and branded as originals. Lilyhammer, Netflix’s first original series from 2012was a co-production that also aired on TV in Norway. Others, like Stranger Things and 3%, are self-produced by Netflix. It’s trying to do more of the latter, so it has more control over the properties.

Originals are the bulk of Netflix’s content budget now. Original TV shows, films, and other productions make up 85% of all new spending on programming, said Spencer Wang, vice president of finance and investor relations speaking at the same event. That’d be about $6.8 billion this year. (Netflix has budgeted $8 billion for content overall and another $2 billion planned for marketing.)

Owning more of its programming has helped Netflix get out from under the thumb of studio partners—some of whom, like Disney, are launching competing platforms.

When it released House of Cards, there was “this notion that if we believe in our own model, then networks will want to create their own on-demand products, and they will want to retain those shows for their own products down the road,” said Sarandos. “So we better see if we can get good at this.”

It got good at it with the help of its robust user data. Netflix knows more about its audience than almost any other media company. It understands the nuance of what its subscribers watch, when, and why, and drives 80% of series viewing through its eerily perceptive recommendations. The user data helps Netflix decide how much money to put toward each of its projects, Sarandos said:

The best use of data for us is being able to more confidently size the potential for a show. If we use the database on past performance of a lot of things then it could raise our confidence that a show with a big budget could also reach a big audience.

And that we can go… this is a great show, but even in wild success it can only reach this many people. So we can make it for this amount. … It helps us size the projects better.”

Correction (7:30am EST): This article previously stated that House of Cards was Netflix’s first original series. It was Lilyhammer.