Netflix, unlike so many of its rivals on cable and broadcast, doesnt share any ratings, so we wont know how popular Orange Is the New Black is after the show has its debut on the service. But we can surmise that it is already pretty popular inside Netflix.
The company announced late last week that it had ordered a second season, two full weeks before subscribers get to see the first season. Such an early pickup is a rarity in television.
It is unusual, Cindy Holland, the companys vice president for original content, acknowledged Friday, but it was motivated by a practical matter: Netflix wanted to shorten the wait time between the first season and the next one. In Season 2, she said, our hope is that we can launch in late spring to early summer, rather than midsummer.
The one-hour series, which comes online July 11, has both dramatic and comedic elements; it comes from Jenji Kohan, who created Weeds for Showtime; and stars Taylor Schilling as an unlikely new inmate at a womens prison and Jason Biggs as the fiance waiting for her release.
Orange has received raves from those who have seen the first episodes (The New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum called it a brilliant cross between Oz and The L Word on a podcast last week) but it doesnt have the same name recognition as other original Netflix offerings, like House of Cards, the political thriller that came online in February, or Arrested Development, the revival of the Fox comedy that came online one month ago. Renewing the show so early may boost interest in the first seasons worth of episodes.
To the industry, an early renewal is a vote of confidence in the shows creators, said Diane Gordon, the television editor for Studio System News, an industry website. To fans, it encourages them to watch a show because they know it wont disappear after two or three episodes, as often happens on broadcast networks.
Earning the loyalty of fans is critical for a service like Netflix, which depends on monthly subscriber fees. Orange continues the companys push to compete with traditional sources of entertainment and, along the way, alter the definition of television.
Even the best of shows take more than one season to fully develop, Chris Albrecht, the chief executive of Starz, said in an email. While we are always mindful of the audience, we are not slaves to ratings, which offers the creative teams we have confidence in the luxury of time to develop the stories and characters.
HBO, the category leader, has a tendency to renew shows within weeks, and sometimes within days, of their start dates. In these cases, the network executives have already seen many of the coming episodes, so they have a good sense of what to expect.
Because Netflix releases all the episodes of a season at the same time, the executives there have seen all 13 episodes of Orange Is the New Black. We dont have the benefit of having viewing information from our subscribers yet, but we do know creatively everything about the season, Holland said.
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