Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is making a ton of original content these days.
In 2015 alone, the digital video service premiered five new drama series, nine comedies for adults (including two animated shows rated MA, for mature audiences), eight kid shows, two deep-dive documentary series, and two full-length theatrical movies. That's not counting a metric heap of stand-alone documentaries, continuations of other networks' canceled series, or stand-up and holiday specials.
That's a grand total of 24 new Netflix original series, again with the caveats listed above. Next year, the company is already planning to release 26 new original shows -- plus a bunch of full-length movies and with the distinct possibility of announcing and releasing several additional titles before 2016 is over.
There was a time when I tried to keep up with all of the Netflix originals. Doing that today would cut into my actual work and family time. Next year, I've have to choose between watching everything Netflix makes or, you know, breathing and sleeping. It's getting crazy out there.
And I say that as a movie nut with at least some excuse to spend hours on keeping up with the torrential stream of Netflix productions. Surely you have better things to do (yes, and don't call me Shirley!), which is why I'm here to point out a few of the 2015 highlights for you.
Award-winners and contenders
Let's start at the obvious end of the content pool: Titles already selected for the TV industry's most coveted awards, including a few actual winners.
At the 2015 Emmy Awards, Netflix shows were nominated for 19 statuettes and walked home with two wins. Keeping in mind that the Emmy season runs from June to May, the 2015 awards included just four of Netflix's comedies and dramas premiering in 2015, and the other 10 were not eligible for participation this time.
That being said, veteran series House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black -- both bowing in 2013 -- took home one acting award each. Newcomers The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Bloodline were nominated for five and two awards, respectively, but were awarded none.
Given the avalanche of new -- and good -- Netflix content that was created beyond that June 1 Emmy cutoff date, you should expect a larger haul of nominations and wins next year.
Looking ahead, the Golden Globes recently released its list of nominees for the January 10 gala. This awards show runs on a calendar-year schedule, so all 14 of the new Netflix comedies and dramas were up for grabs.
Here, Netflix snagged eight nominations out of 56 available slots. That's an industry-leading performance, ahead of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) unit HBO in second place with 7 nods.
That's a stark contrast to the Emmy slate, where HBO ran away with 16 wins out of 46 nominations. If the Globes are any indication of things to come, the 2016 Emmy Awards could be a very different story indeed.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his corner-office team seem to have favorites of their own.
In the last earnings call of the 2015 calendar year, Hastings held up historical drug-dealing drama Narcos as the title to beat. The show, which focuses on the history of Colombian cocaine lord Pablo Escobar, was released on Aug. 28 and is, as noted, up for two potential awards in the upcoming Golden Globes gala.
"Narcos is really just such an incredible story, because it's two-thirds in Spanish, and that was a huge success for us around the world, including France and Norway," Hastings said. "And so it really speaks a lot to our ability to connect the world to do amazing shows around the world that are great stories for everyone."
Later in the same call, Hastings shrugged off direct competition from broadband providers, saying that their content moves really haven't affected Netflix. "What has affected us is when we have great show like Narcos that just takes the world by storm," he said. "So that's what we're focused on, how do we have more incredible shows."
At an industry conference in early December, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos filled out the picture with more color:
It's been really encouraging to see something like the success of Narcos this year. Narcos is a show that is 85% in Spanish, it's produced with a French film company. It is shot in Columbia with Brazilian creators and Brazilian stars and it is unusually popular in Germany and all over the world.
Daredevil, Narcos, Jessica Jones are very popular in Japan.
In Spain and Italy and Portugal it was all about the excitement about Narcos and Daredevil and the original shows they've not been otherwise available in the territory before. So, these original programs have acted as a brand ambassador for us around the world and these territories we haven't been operating in, in a way that has made our launches much more successful and much more focused on the quality of program than what is on demand.
With praise like that, you can bet that Netflix is seeing viewer traction from Narcos in international markets. Sarandos also mentioned Marvel productions Daredevil and Jessica Jones a couple of times, which is another indication that the Marvel partnership with Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is paying off.
Of course, Netflix's management is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to actual viewership numbers. But when Nielsen (NYSE:NLSN) released its first report on digital streaming traffic, the ratings veteran said that Netflix had the most-watched digital show but that it still lagged HBO's Game of Thrones in the cable TV world. To that, Sarandos said that Nielsen probably wasn't measuring the right devices and that the Netflix show probably should be ranked ahead of Thrones.
Sarandos may have been talking about Narcos in that discussion, or perhaps Marvel title Daredevil. Either way, running neck-and-neck with Game of Thrones would be an impressive feat indeed.
Time to get subjective
Awards and management bluster aside, here's what I think about Netflix's 2015 crop of original series.
Among the new comedies, Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt really is the one to watch. Sure, Aziz Azari's Master of None is quality television and Mr. Show reboot W/Bob and David comes with an army of built-in fans. But Unbreakable pairs a masterful script with brilliant performances all around, and this is the only new Netflix comedy that makes me excited about getting another season in 2016.
Drama is a much stronger field. From the slow-burn acting clinic found in Bloodline to the explosive mind-bender known as Sense8, there's a show for every taste here. But picking a favorite right now, I'd have to go with Jessica Jones.
That's another Marvel superhero title, resting on a heroine who was unfamiliar to me. But it's also a deeply human drama, using superpowers as a pointed metaphor for psychological brutality, and season 1 kind of plays like the third season of Breaking Bad. It's that powerful.
I could go on and on, but let's wrap this up. If you're looking for a fresh Netflix comedy to binge-watch between the holidays, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would be it. For drama, I'd tip my hat to Jessica Jones. Your mileage may vary, but you have to start somewhere.
Anders Bylund owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool also recommends Time Warner. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.