What "Orange Is the New Black" Reveals About Netflix's Programming Strategy

Season two of Orange Is the New Black is already here, and season three is on the way. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) ordered the follow-up in early May, a month before the new season debuted here in the U.S. Why didn't Netflix's chief content officer wait to see how viewers responded to the new episodes? What makes this show so special that Netflix had to have more?

Guest host Alison Southwick puts these questions to Fool analysts Nathan Alderman and Tim Beyers in this episode of 1-Up On Wall Street, The Motley Fool's Web show in which we talk about the big-money names behind your favorite movies, toys, video games, comics, and more.

Tim says that Orange Is the New Black wouldn't have worked on a broadcast network because it doesn't have the mass appeal advertisers crave. Instead, Netflix is cultivating a small but passionate following in hopes that word will spread and lead others to subscribe. (The strategy seems to be at least partially working: Illegal downloads jumped tenfold following the season two debut.)

Orange Is the New Black will be back for a third season on Netflix. Source: Netflix.

Positive buzz for Orange Is the New Black and similar originals is even more important abroad, where Netflix is rapidly expanding. Good reviews, awards, and positive word of mouth are necessary to convince would-be members that Netflix's library is worth paying for. Sarandos is apparently paying close to $4 million per episode to make sure they see Orange Is the New Black meets their standards.

Nathan agrees, saying the show doesn't pretend to appeal to a wide audience. And yet Netflix can do that because its overall library does appeal to wide audiences, allowing the company to take risks with original programming such as Orange Is the New Black as well as House of Cards and Hemlock Grove.

The strategy has paid off nicely. Netflix's worldwide streaming membership has grown from 26.48 million in the first quarter of 2012, when Lilyhammer debuted, to 48.35 million in the most recent quarter. Almost a clean double, and decent circumstantial evidence that Sarandos is right to want more stories starring the ladies of Litchfield prison.

Now it's your turn. Click the video to watch as Alison puts Nathan and Tim on the spot, and then leave a comment to let us know your take on Orange Is the New Black and Netflix stock. You can also follow us on Twitter for more segments and regular geek news updates!

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Tim Beyers

Tim Beyers first began writing for the Fool in 2003. Today, he's an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Supernova. At, he covers disruptive ideas in technology and entertainment, though you'll most often find him writing and talking about the business of comics. Find him online at or send email to For more insights, follow Tim on Google+ and Twitter.

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