Netflix is shifting its emphasis from licensed content to series produced in-house, according to David Wells the streaming platform’s CFO. Other major streaming services, including Hulu and Amazon — which are exclusive to the U.S. — have also moved into financing their own production rather than merely purchasing the rights to pre-existing media.
It’s Netflix that is leading this change, however, with major commitments — either through co-production deals or global streaming rights — to high-profile and ambitious shows that will guarantee it a strong position in the competition for subscribers.
The willingness of Netflix executives to take on traditional TV networks reflects the financial impact of changing viewing habitats and the power that has been accumulated by a company that started renting DVDs in 1997. Yet, although Netflix is American, it is, to a significant degree, taking this big leap off the back of the same Canadian production expertise that its network TV rivals have been using with great success for years.
To prove this point, here are five shows filmed in Canada that Netflix hopes will make its subscriber base skyrocket.
Star Trek: Discovery
It’s been 11 years since a Star Trek fan group tried to save Star Trek: Enterprise by getting production shifted to Canada. So it’s perhaps fitting that the first Trek series since that prematurely-terminated trip into Starfleet history, will be filmed in Toronto.
What’s more, Star Trek: Discovery is rumoured to also be a prequel to the original Series. Netflix signed what their PR department called a “landmark” deal with CBS for the streaming rights in 188 countries outside the U.S. and Canada.
This could be the biggest draw the streaming service has ever had. By using Toronto’s rich pool of filmmaking talent, CBS has ensured that Canadians will play a significant role in charting the direction taken by the next installment in this quinquagenarian franchise. Netflix, meanwhile, might be hoping that the result is better than Star Trek Into Darkness.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is another high-profile show shot in Canada that Netflix has claimed streaming rights to outside the US. Filmed in Vancouver, it’s loosely based on a series of novels by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy) so the source material is sure to attract new subscribers. Gently, a supposedly-psychic detective who believes in “the interconnectedness of all things,” is played by British actor Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful), with Elijah Wood as his sidekick, Todd.
Netflix is part of a co-production partnership that took advantage of British Columbia’s tax breaks and talent to film the show on the West Coast. Unfortunately, few outside Canada are likely to realize that because the show is set in Seattle. At least they put a Canadian in charge, though: the showrunner is Robert C. Cooper, long-time executive producer on the Stargate franchise.
Of all the shows listed here, this is probably the most ambitious and risky for Netflix. My inside source tells me that it’s “big” and that applies not only to the size of the production but the ideas underpinning the story. Altered Carbon is based on a futuristic detective novel of the same name by Richard Morgan.
The book’s story takes place hundreds of years from now and combines speculative technology, metaphysics and murder. That’s serious stuff for Netflix, a company that got off the ground by lending movies to people in the mail. It goes without saying that Altered Carbon is sci-fi and currently there is nowhere better equipped than Canada to handle production of series in that genre. That’s why Netflix has entrusted Vancouver’s experienced crews and proven FX companies with a big investment in what could be one of the top SF series of the decade.
Remember Will from Will and Grace? Well, Eric McCormack is so well known on American television from that sitcom and other shows such as Perception and Pound Puppies (yes, you read that correctly) that you’d be forgiven for not knowing he’s Canadian. Pretty much everyone else involved in Travelers too.
Filmed in Vancouver for Netflix and Showcase, it’s premise involves people from the future coming back to the present day to prevent the destruction of most of humanity. It’s more than just a Continuum rip-off, though. The titular travelers are on a one-way trip into the past and they arrive in the bodies of people who are about to die. All the information they have on their expiring hosts comes from social media profiles and we all know how reliable those can be. McCormack plays an FBI agent and the leader of the series’ main group of travelers. The creator and showrunner is Toronto-born Brad Wright, who collaborated with Robert C. Cooper on Stargate.
Degrassi: Next Class
It’s not all geek fare that Netflix is banking on. The company picked up the rights to this show outside Canada when Nickelodeon passed up the opportunity to get more Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Where TV is concerned, you can’t get much more Canadian than the Degrassi franchise, which first went on air before we even had Star Trek: The Next Generation. Netflix has renewed Degrassi: Next Class for a third and fourth season to stream in 2017, thus ensuring that the whole world can watch the soap opera lives of Toronto teens for at least two more terms.