Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

July 31 2015 8:32 AM

How Netflix’s Original Programming Is Poised to Outpace the Top Cable Networks, in One Chart

This article originally appeared in New York magazine.

Just before the February 2013 debut of House of Cards, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos revealed his game plan for the streaming service. “The goal,” he told GQ, “is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” More than a few TV-industry insiders dismissed Sarandos’s statement as bluster, tough talk from a Silicon Valley outsider playing to investors and the tech media. But by at least one major metric—the size of its original programming roster—it turns out Sarandos wasn’t bluffing. Barely three years after it started churning out its own programming, Netflix already has more original series in various stages of production than HBO, the longtime leader of premium cable content and a network that has been in business for over 40 years. What’s more, as the chart below illustrates, Netflix next year is poised to expand its lineup to more than two dozen series, blowing past both HBO and TV’s most prolific basic-cable programmer, FX/FXX. A service until recently known mostly for repurposing other people’s movies and TV shows will thus achieve a major milestone: It will boast the biggest collection of first-run scripted content of any other subscription-based network in America, cable or streaming. 

To be clear, having so many shows in production does not by itself stand as some sort of “game over” moment for Netflix or its rivals. HBO still maintains a massive lead in Emmy nominations, this month pulling in 126 nods versus 34 for Netflix. HBO this year also did what Sarandos predicted it would back in 2013: It “became” Netflix by launching HBO Now, the direct-to-consumer, no-cable-subscription-required clone of the mothership. And then there’s the yardstick that matters most to Netflix shareholders: profitability. While Netflix last year had more subscribers and revenue than HBO, the cable veteran still outpaced Netflix in terms of overall profitability (by a margin of nearly 10 to 1, by one analysis).

And yet the rapid rise of Netflix as a source of original programming is breathtaking—and without recent historical precedent. FX and HBO, for example, had been in business for one and two decades, respectively, before they began seriously expanding their scripted offerings—and then did so at a much more measured pace than Netflix. (It should be noted that both FX and HBO stepped up the pace of development in recent years—a reaction to the disruptive force that is Netflix as well as the slew of other new entrants into the scripted game.) On the broadcast side, the (relatively) short-lived WB and UPN took about five years to build up to their peak programming rosters in the late 1990s, and then rarely produced more than 16–18 titles each season. Fox followed a similar flight path as it built up its slate in the early 1990s. The closest precedent to Netflix’s scale-up can probably be found back in the earliest days of linear television, in the late 1940s and early ’50s, when CBS, DuMont, and NBC invented the notion of TV networks in America and flooded the airwaves with programming (even then, many shows were unscripted or only 15 minutes in length).

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July 31 2015 8:02 AM

The Best Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix in August

Every month, a number of movies and TV series leave Netflix streaming, sometimes only temporarily, usually because licensing deals have expired. Several new titles arrive in their place. So what’s coming this month, and which of these new arrivals should you watch? Below, we’ve chosen the best new movies and TV shows coming to Netflix Instant streaming in August 2015. Plan your weekend marathons accordingly.

July 30 2015 5:08 PM

Inside Out Director Pete Docter Explains Why Pixar Remade Certain Scenes for Foreign Viewers

If there’s one thing that Inside Out’s main character Riley hates, it’s broccoli. Or is it? Last week Pixar tech artist David Lally pointed out on Twitter that Japanese children watching Inside Out will see Riley balk at a different green veggie: peppers. But that’s not the only change made to help the film translate better. Stateside, Riley’s dad likes to daydream about hockey at the dinner table, but for some audiences, he’s a soccer fan. We reached out to Pixar for a little insight into why they made the decisions they made—and what other changes we might have missed. Here’s what Pete Docter had to say.

July 30 2015 3:32 PM

Hear Fiona Apple’s Raucous Cover of “When I Get Low, I Get High” With Members of Nickel Creek

Last week, jazz quintet Postmodern Jukebox released a sultry, vintage-style cover of Fiona Apple’s breakout hit “Criminal”—and it seems appropriate that around the same time, Apple herself was covering a 1930s jazz standard. Apple has been on tour with the folk group Watkins Family Hour (which includes Sara and Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek) to promote their new album, and during their set at the Newport Folk Festival, the band performed the swing-era number “When I Get Low, I Get High.” The frenetic tribute to drug use, written by silent film star and musician Marion Sunshine, was first recorded by a teenaged Ella Fitzgerald and the Chick Webb Orchestra in 1936.

July 30 2015 2:47 PM

The New Black Mass Trailer Offers an Extra Helping of Johnny Depp’s Creepy Whitey Bulger

The first trailer for Whitey Bulger drama Black Mass centered around one tense dinner scene, but in the new full-length trailer, Johnny Depp finds lots of new ways to be creepy. There’s creepy swaggering down the street! A creepy military salute! Creepy stomach crunches! Directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) the movie follows the true story of the infamous Boston gangster (Depp) as he does the usual gangster stuff: Threatening people, killing people, and maintaining complicated relationships with the FBI.

July 30 2015 1:32 PM

The Trailer for Cary Fukunaga’s Next Movie Has More Suspense Than All of True Detective Season 2

Ever since Cary Fukunaga made his name directing the first season of True Detective,  fans have been eager to see what the writer-director would do next. Now, his adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s acclaimed novel Beasts of No Nation is set to come to theaters and to Netflix this October, and today Netflix released the first trailer.

July 30 2015 11:25 AM

Emma Donoghue’s Room Is Now a Movie, and the Trailer Will Give You Chills

Emma Donoghue’s best-selling Room, the story of a kidnapped woman raising her son in captivity, has been adapted into a movie that looks just as harrowing as its source material. In the film, directed by Lenny Abrahamson (who also helmed last year’s acclaimed Frank), and adapted by Donoghue herself, Brie Larson plays Ma, a woman who’s held captive with her son, Jack, and allows him to believe the single room they’re being kept in is the only thing that’s real. But when she sees a chance for escape, Ma must convince Jack to help her—and pray that he isn’t overwhelmed by the outside world. The best-selling novel, which is narrated from Jack’s perspective, was short-listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. The movie hits theaters Oct. 16.

July 30 2015 10:13 AM

Here’s Why You Should Use Cornbread in Your Panzanella

This post originally appeared on Food52.

Cornbread and tomatoes are often at the same party—cornbread at one end of the table, near a sweating stick of butter, and tomatoes (in the salad bowl) at the other—but never dancing. Always involved in separate conversations, but flitting their eyes over to check the other one out from time to time. The sexual tension is hard to ignore—I’ve got a sense for stuff like this. It seems like it’s meant to be. Time for these kids to make out.

Panzanella is my favorite way to bring cornbread and summer tomatoes together in perfect union (I know, they’re moving really fast). A tomato-centric salad with more than a few cubes of toasted bread means that both parties shine in equal measure; the cornbread adds a lovely rustic-ness, and bulbous heirloom tomatoes are just weird and fun. 

July 30 2015 8:02 AM

Why Are Movie Trailers Using So Many Creepy Pop Covers? A Music Director Explains.

There’s a formula to making movie trailers, the many ingredients of which (quirky indie music, dramatic title cards, and so on) have been pointed out, and parodied, again andagain. Lately, though, we’ve noticed the rise of a different recurring trailer trope: Familiar pop songs remade as creepy, dirge-like soundtracks.

The most recent example is the Suicide Squad trailer, which premiered at Comic-Con earlier this month. As Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller describes assembling her crew of villains, the ominous music bubbles beneath her monologue until an echoey, child-like female vocal chimes in. The song lyrics are, in fact, from one of the Bee Gees’ lesser-known hits, “I Started a Joke.” And several other recent trailers have taken a page from this book: Avengers: Age of Ultron (“I’ve Got No Strings”), Amy (“Back to Black”), andBirdman (“Crazy”), among others.

How did we go from simply using pop songs in trailers to refashioning them as haunting, melancholic tunes? 

July 29 2015 9:23 PM

There Are Few Things More Beautiful Than Hayao Miyazaki’s Worlds Rendered in 3-D

Earlier this month, Hayao Miyazaki unretired—again—to announce his first computer-animated movie, a 10-minute short about a very hairy caterpillar. Before blasting the director’s surrender to CGI, though, purists should drop the pitchforks, draw a deep breath, and watch Dono’s tribute to Miyazaki, which renders Studio Ghibli’s most famous films in three sumptuous, jaw-dropping dimensions.

Dono, an up-and-coming animator who counts Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich among his fans, used software like Blender, Gimp, Octane, and Natron to make the video. I claim no knowledge about what any of those programs do, but here they’ve been deployed to deepen and illuminate Miyazaki’s worlds, bringing beloved characters like Totoro and No-Face just a shade closer to reality. Maybe that hairy caterpillar won’t be so tough to take after all.   


Via the Creators Project.