Netflix goes big on unscripted programming with 20 original shows planned for 2017

Netflix is making headway on its ambitions to fill half its library with original content. According to Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, the company is planning to release about 20 unscripted series next year, bringing it closer to its goal of having 1,000 annual hours of original programming available on its service in 2017.

That’s more than the amount of original programming available on Netflix this year, but even so, Sarandos says that the 1,000-plus hours was a “conservative measure.” (Netflix had earlier said that it was aiming for 600 hours of originals in 2016, up from 450 in 2015.)

He also restated that Netflix is planning to spend roughly $6 billion in original content on a profit-and-loss basis in 2017, up from $5 billion this year, Variety reports.

Amid increased competition from new streaming services, Netflix believes that its investment in its own programming will help differentiate its service from rivals, while also simplifying the licensing situation.

In addition, unlike with mainstream TV networks, Netflix can target niche audiences with its original programming — something that can help it attract more subscribers.

Today, it has 30 original scripted series in development or release, and now it’s planning to expand further into unscripted shows.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, Sarandos referred to unscripted programming as “a very interesting business.” He explained that Netflix’s advantage in this genre is not necessarily that it can come up with unique concepts, but its ability to scale its shows worldwide.

“The content itself seems to be largely interchangeable. Meaning, if you want to see a show about hoarding, there are three different shows about hoarding,” said Sarandos, as reported by The Wrap.

As an example, the exec mentioned Netflix’s previously announced investment in “Ultimate Beastmaster,” a reality competition series produced by Sylvester Stallone and “The Biggest Loser” exec producer Dave Broome. The series will include six country-specific versions — taking place in the U.S., Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Germany and Japan — each filmed in their own language, with local competitors and local hosts.

Sarandos also offered a brief update on Netflix’s other efforts in original content, including its investment in feature films. He said the Adam Sandler films Netflix made are popular, but didn’t detail how many customers were viewing them. However, he did note that movies in general account for a third of subscriber viewing on Netflix.

Additionally, Sarandos dismissed the idea of bringing live sports to Netflix’s service. Though the exec had said last year the company was open to the idea, it would only get involved if it owned and created the event itself. In other words, Netflix doesn’t plan on bidding on the rights to live sporting events anytime soon.

Today, Sarandos repeated that position, saying “don’t look for us to be bidding for league rights,” but said that league creation may be something the company could be interested in.