Taking another page out of the HBO playbook, Netflix has signed a deal to bring Aziz Ansari’s “Buried Alive” comedy special to the streaming video service first. As detailed by the New York Times, Netflix is taking a stronger position in the comedy world with the recent Netflix-exclusive comedy specials from John Hodgman, Brian Posehn and Mike Birbiglia. In addition to the November release of Ansari’s special, Netflix is also working with comics Marc Maron and Kathleen Madigan to bring two more comedy specials to Netflix Instant.
Aziz Ansari certainly isn’t a stranger to digital distribution as a platform for video delivery. Last year, Ansari put his comedy special “Dangerously Delicious” on his personal website and charged users $5 to download a DRM-free copy of his comedy special. Ansari was basically following the lead of comics Louis C.K. and Jim Gaffigan in that regard.
Ansari does plan to release “Buried Alive” for the same $5 download fee, but only after Netflix has had a chance to debut the comedy special on the Netflix Instant service. Netflix also plans to spend money on a promotional campaign to go along with the comedy special, likely similar to the advertising campaign that promoted the fourth season of Arrested Development.
Recounting an interaction with a fan on Twitter, Ansari told the New York Times the fan asked “When are you going to put out another stand-up special on Netflix? I need more free stand-up.” Ansari commented “It’s so convenient, you don’t even think about the fact that you’re paying for it.” Ansari also mentioned that his own comedy specials are recommended to himself on his personal Netflix account all the time.
Commenting on the shift to invest in comedy in addition to dramatic shows like Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said “We’ve been working to make Netflix a great home for comedians to do their best work and to support their live performance careers, and having Aziz debut his new show with us is a validation of that strategy.” According to the Times, the deal between Sarandos and Ansari came to fruition after the two met at an event in New York and Sarandos commented on the popularity of Ansari’s specials on Netflix Instant.
Comedy specials are likely less complicated and cheaper for Netflix to purchase or create than original shows. In addition, it provides a stream of new, exclusive content to viewers that encourages subscribers to continue paying for Netflix Instant each month. Aziz Ansari’s special is expected to launch on Netflix Instant on November 1, 2013.
Besides already launching original shows like House of Cards, Arrested Development, Hemlock Grove, and Orange Is the New Black this year, Netflix is also releasing the Ricky Gervais’ series Derek on September 12. Other shows in the pipeline for Netflix Instant include the second season of Lilyhammer as well as the animated original Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team) from Dreamworks Animation. During 2014, Netflix has lined up a science fiction drama from the Wachowskis called Sense8 as well as the 13th century-set drama Marco Polo after production was halted by Starz.