Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is getting sweet on original content -- and they're reaching for the good stuff. The digital video maven has already scored one Golden Globe, three Emmys, and even an Oscar nomination in the documentary category.
Heady stuff for sure, but not every Netflix show is an award-winning hit. Not counting stand-up comedy specials and journalistic documentaries, Netflix has presented 10 original series so far.
Now, Netflix doesn't actually send out film crews and foot the talent bill directly for most of these titles. Instead, the company is starting out by ordering content from specialists in the field, whether they're indie producers or big-ticket studios.
Digging into the Netflix originals, you'll find out that Twenty-First Century Fox produced two of these first 10 series under the experimental Fox Digital Studio banner, and another through its traditional TV studio. DreamWorks Animation contributed one, to be followed by an avalanche of silver screen titles under an exclusive Netflix license. LionsGate made the best Netflix series so far, and will benefit if Netflix sees enough value to order a third or fourth season of it. And yes, even HBO parent Time Warner slides in at the very bottom of my list with a badly mishandled Cartoon Network title. Warner chief Jeff Bewkes is warming up to the Albanian Army already.
So what do these shows really mean to Netflix today?
Ordering up content a la carte from established production studios is exactly how HBO got started with original shows long ago, and perhaps the only reasonable strategy for a brand-new content provider. If these shows pull in enough new subscribers to be worthwhile, Netflix may eventually build its own Hollywood backlot and start hiring talent managers directly. But these are early days, and Netflix must first get comfortable with the value of these original shows -- or lack thereof.
In the meantime, you can consider the Netflix originals as a proof of concept. Netflix is trying to prove to itself, and to the industry at large, that original shows are more than just empty marketing slogans. To help Netflix stave off challenges from other digital video specialists, traditional broadcasters getting smart, or as-yet unseen threats, at least some of these early titles must really pull their weight. And with Internet service providers throwing up fresh roadblocks to bolster their own digital video ambitions, this just might be the perfect time to run this experiment.
So the content comes from all corners, including some of Hollywood's biggest studios. There's more of it coming up, but these 10 titles are a good start. It's an uneven batch -- most definitely not 10 massive hits in the making -- and I'll bet you won't recognize some of the titles. Here they are, starting from the bottom of the heap and ending with... Well, dive into the slideshow to find out.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends DreamWorks Animation and Netflix and owns shares of Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.