Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina Spellman faces the Eldritch Terrors in the final installment of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Sabrina Spellman and the good people of Greendale face their most terrifying adversary yet as otherworldly beings seek to bring about the end of all things in the official trailer for the fourth and final season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The Netflix series is based on the comic book series of the same name, a part of the Archie Horror imprint.
(Some spoilers for prior seasons below, most notably the S3 finale.)
As we’ve reported previously, the show was originally intended as a companion series to the CW’s Riverdale—a gleefully Gothic take on the original Archie comic books—but Sabrina ended up on Netflix instead. The show retains some of the primetime soap opera elements of Riverdale but it incorporates more full-blown horror without bowing to the niceties imposed by network television. As I wrote earlier this year, “Ultimately, the best thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how gleefully and unapologetically the show leans into its melting pot of the macabre. It’s quite the high-wire act, exploring serious themes while never, ever taking itself too seriously—and never descending into outright camp.”
Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop in the new Netflix series Lupin, a contemporary retelling of the classic French story about a gentleman thief and master of disguise.
A man seeking revenge for the death of his father attempts a risky museum heist in Lupin, a new series premiering on Netflix in January starring French actor and comedian Omar Sy. The series is a contemporary reimagining of a classic character in French detective fiction, Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief and master of disguise who was essentially the French equivalent of Sherlock Holmes.
Suave, stylish, and sophisticated, Lupin is the creation of Maurice Leblanc, who based the character partly on a French burglar/anarchist. Leblanc was also familiar with the gentleman thief featured in the work of Octave Mirbeau as well as E.W. Hornung’s famed gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, and he also knew about Rocambole, a character whose adventures were recounted in a series of stories published between 1857 and 1870 by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail.
Relentlessly pursued by a detective named Ganimard, Lupin is captured stealing a woman’s jewels on board a ship. Although he is imprisoned, he ultimately escapes before standing trial and goes on to pull off many other colorful heists. In a June 1906 story, “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late,” Lupin meets the aging detective, although for legal reasons—Arthur Conan Doyle objected—the name was changed to “Herlock Sholmes” when the story was included in the first book of collected stories. The Sholmes character appeared in a few more stories later on. All told, Leblanc wrote 17 novels and 39 novellas featuring Lupin.
A long-time fan of “The Karate Kid,” I find my style’s a bit more Miyagi-Do, but, in reflecting upon my last few years as a founding GP at a young VC firm, I see some parallels between what it takes to win as an emerging manager and the mantras by which the Cobra Kai school abides.
Before diving into that, let me quickly set the stage for what the competitive landscape looks like for emerging managers these days. I’ll focus primarily on the seed landscape here, but the Cobra Kai framework applies just as readily to later stage funds as well.
Leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, the venture industry saw a record number of dollars raised by seed funds less than $100 million in size. As is the case across stages however, there has been a notable decline in seed volume in the wake of COVID-19.
U.S. fundraising activity for sub-$100M seed rounds. Data source: PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. Image Credits: Fika Ventures
The opposing dynamics of a contraction in deal volume and an unprecedented amount of readily available investable capital has led to a tremendous amount of competition for the highest-quality deals. This flight to quality can be clearly seen in the rise of seed valuations in the upper quartile compared to the decline in other cohorts. Amid a backdrop of COVID chaos, upper quartile valuations have hit an all-time high.
Angel/seed pre-money valuations by quartile. Data source: PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. Image Credits: Fika Ventures
Due to their smaller fund size and prescriptive portfolio construction mandates, emerging managers have little leeway in terms of the valuations at which they can invest — their ownership requirements and check size limits impose a hard ceiling to which their investors hold them strictly accountable.
If budging on valuation is not a viable tactic to compete against established firms — which, in addition to their ability to be less price sensitive also boast more recognizable brand names, larger teams and higher AUM that affords them higher budgets for platform resources — how can emerging managers win? Enter Cobra Kai.
Let’s face it. As an emerging manager, the chances of you winning a deal once the established players start to circle drops precipitously. In order to win, you need to have a first-mover advantage.
On a practical level, there are two windows of opportunity to achieve this:
You might think that a new Netflix film called “Holidate” offers holiday-themed romance that’s perfect for a family watch party. You’d be wrong.
The film stars Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey as a pair of strangers who agree (in classic romantic comedy style) to keep each other company on holidays.
And while the movie can’t be completely pigeonholed as a raunchy comedy — it also includes a dash of metatextual commentary, with a healthy dose of undiluted romantic schmaltz — “Holidate” is certainly filled with sexually frank dialogue, and a couple of its biggest set pieces go all-in on gross-out humor. So, and as one of the hosts of the Original Content podcast discovered, watching it with your family can be extremely uncomfortable.
But, assuming you avoid that awkwardness, is it actually funny? Sometimes! A word that comes up repeatedly in our review is “adequate” — Darrell embraced the film’s surprisingly dirty humor, while Anthony and Jordan were at least mildly entertained.
A police case has been filed this week against two top executives of the American streaming service in India after a leader of the governing party objected to some scenes in a TV series.
The show, “A Suitable Boy,” is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Indian author Vikram Seth that follows the life of a young girl. It has a scene in which the protagonist is seeing kissing a Muslim boy at a Hindu temple.
Narottam Mishra, the interior minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said a First Information Report (an official police complaint) had been filed against Monika Shergill, VP of Content at Netflix and Ambika Khurana, Director of Public Policies for the firm, over objectionable scenes in the show that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
“I had asked officials to examine the series ‘A Suitable Boy’ being streamed on Netflix to check if kissing scenes in it were filmed in a temple and if it hurt religious sentiments. The examination prima facie found that these scenes are hurting the sentiments of a particular religion,” he said.
Gaurav Tiwari, a BJP youth leader who filed the complaint, demanded an apology from Netflix and makers of the series (directed by award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair), and said the film promoted “love jihad,” an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that alleges that Muslim men entice Hindi women into converting their religion under the pretext of marriage.
Netflix declined to comment.
In recent days, a number of people have expressed on social media their anger at Netflix over these “objectionable” scenes. Though it is unclear if all of them — if any — are a Netflix subscriber.
The incident comes weeks after an ad from the luxury jewelry brand Tanishq — part of the 152-year-old salt-to-steel conglomerate — which celebrated interfaith marriage received intense backlash in the country.
For Netflix, the timing of this backlash isn’t great. The new incident comes days after the Indian government announced new rules for digital media, under which the nation’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will be regulating online streaming services. Prior to this new rule, India’s IT ministry oversaw streaming services, and according to a top streaming service executive, online services enjoyed a great degree of freedom.
Co-creator Dave Chappelle offered some context for the decision in an Instagram clip of what appears to be a recent standup set, in which described any company streaming the show as “fencing stolen goods.”
Not that he’s accusing Comedy Central of violating its deal with him. Instead, it’s the contract that he’s criticizing, and he said he signed it “the way that a 28-year-old expecting father that was broke signs a contract.”
People think I made a lot of money from ‘Chappelle’s Show.’ When I left that show, I never got paid. They didn’t have to pay me because I signed the contract. But is that right? I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never have to tell me. Perfectly legal because I signed the contract. But is that right? I didn’t think so either.
Chappelle went on to describe himself as “furious” when he heard that Netflix was streaming the show:
So you know what I did? I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad. And you want to know what they did? They agreed that they would take it off their platform just so I could feel better. That’s why I fuck with Netflix. Because they paid me my money, they do what they say they’re going to do, and they went above and beyond what you could expect from a businessman. They did something just because they thought that I might think that they were wrong.
“Chappelle’s Show,” meanwhile, is still available on HBO Max (he has some choice words for HBO executives as well) and on Comedy Central and CBS All Access — which, like Comedy Central, is owned by ViacomCBS.
Netflix is committing $1 billion in production spend at its ABQ Studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico along with plans to expand those studios, the company said.
In an announcement alongside New Mexico’s Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Albuquerque Mayor, Tim Keller, Netflix’s chief executive Ted Sarandos said the company would add 300 acres to its existing space in ABQ Studios, creating one of the largest film production facilities in North America.
That means roughly 1,000 new production jobs in New Mexico over the next ten years, the company predicted and an additional 1,467 construction jobs to complete the expansion.
“My administration has expanded our state’s competitive film incentives, facilitating higher-wage employment for New Mexicans all across the state, and increased opportunities for rural communities,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The proposed expansion and $150 million in capital expenditures will add ten new stages, post-production services, mills, backlots, and training facilities, wardrobe suites, a commissary, and other flexible buildings.
New Mexico’s government is providing $17 million in funding and the city of Albuquerque is providing another $7 million in financing, including $6 million in infrastructure in-kind financing.
The city is also issuing bonds to abate property and other taxes over a 20-year term to cover the first $500 million investment by Netflix to build out the production facility.
As part of the deal, Netflix has also agreed to lease 130 acres from the State Land Office in addition to the private purchase of another 170 acres.
New Mexico’s Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary, Alicia J. Keyes, said the deal could ultimately result in $2.5 billion worth of spending in the state.
Netflix also committed to supporting the state’s indigenous, latino, Black and other underrepresented content creators and filmmakers.
Productions filming in New Mexico currently include “The Harder They Fall” and “Intrusion” — and the company expects to begin shooting the next season of “Stranger Things” in the state.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is setting viewership records at Netflix, the streaming service said today.
Like all the viewership data that Netflix has released this year, these new numbers reflect how many people “chose to watch” — in other words, how many people watched at least two minutes of a given show or movie. In the case of “The Queen’s Gambit,” the number is 62 million households for the first 28 days of release, making it Netflix’s most popular scripted limited series ever.
You may have noticed some qualifiers there. “The Queen’s Gambit” beat out other limited series, like co-creator Scott Frank’s previous show “Godless,” but not Netflix’s biggest ongoing hits, such as “The Witcher” (76 million households watching season one). It also fell just a bit short of the limited-but-unscripted documentary series “Tiger King,” which reached 64 million households during its first four weeks.
The numbers are still pretty impressive for a series with what seems like a decidedly un-commercial promise — following a troubled young woman as she rises through the ranks of competitive chess, eventually challenging the Soviet Union’s world champion. But the series has benefited from excellent reviews (100% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the fact that it’s very, very good.
“Three years ago when Scott Frank … first approached us about adapting “The Queen’s Gambit” — Walter Tevis’ 1983 book about a young chess prodigy — we felt it was a compelling tale,” Netflix’s vice president for original series Peter Friedlander wrote in a blog post. “Beth is an underdog who faces addiction, loss and abandonment. Her success – against the odds – speaks to the importance of perseverance, family, and finding, and staying true to, yourself.”
“The Crown,” Netflix’s lavish historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has returned for a fourth season that focuses on Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Anthony and (especially) Jordan remain fans of the show, and they found season four to be particularly compelling. Yes, the monarchy is a little ridiculous and “The Crown” does have a tendency to simplify real-world events, but its retelling of the Charles-Diana relationship is heartbreaking, and it also takes the time to show some of the damage wrought by Thatcher’s policies.
Darrell, on the other hand, remains a skeptic, with little patience for all the attention paid to the royal family. He was particularly exasperated by the show’s deviation from historical reality, and by performances (particularly Gillian Anderson as Thatcher) that felt more like cheesy, “Saturday Night Live”-style imitations.
Netflix already borrowed the concept of short-form video “Stories” from social apps like Snapchat and Instagram for its Previews feature back in 2018. Now, the company is looking to the full-screen vertical video feed, popularized by TikTok, for further inspiration. With its latest experiment, Fast Laughs, Netflix is offering a new feed of short-form comedy clips drawn from its full catalog.
The feed includes clips from both originals and licensed programming, Netflix says. It also includes video clips from the existing Netflix social channel, “Netflix Is A Joke,” which today runs clips, longer videos and other social content across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Fast Laughs resembles TikTok in the sense that it’s swiped through vertically, offers full-screen videos and places its engagement buttons on the right side. But it’s not trying to become a place to waste time while being entertained.
Like many of Netflix’s experiments, the goal with the Fast Laughs feed is to help users discover something new to watch.
Instead of liking and commenting on videos, as you would in a social video app, the feed is designed to encourage users to add shows to their Netflix watch list for later viewing. In this sense, it’s serving a similar purpose to Netflix’s “Previews” feature, which helps users discover shows by watching clips and trailers from popular and newly released programming.
As users scroll through the new Fast Laughs feed, they’ll encounter a wide range of comedy clips — like a clip from a Kevin Hart stand-up special or a funny bit from “The Office,” for example. The clips will also range in length anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds.
In addition to adding clips to Netflix’s “My List” feature, users can also react to clips with a laughing emoji button, share the clip with friends across social media, or tap a “More” button to see other titles related to the clip you’re viewing.
The feature was first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra, based in the U.K. In his app, Fast Laughs appeared in front of the row of Previews, where it was introduced with text that said “New!”
Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch the experiment had been tested with a small number of users earlier this year, but has recently started rolling out to a wider group this month — including users in the U.K., the U.S. and other select markets.
It’s currently available to a subset of Netflix users with adult profiles or other profiles without parental controls on iOS devices only. However, users don’t need to be opted in to experiments nor do they need to be on a beta version of the Netflix app to see the feature. It’s more of a standard A/B test, Netflix says.
And because it’s a test, users may see slightly different versions of the same feature. The product may also evolve over time, in response to user feedback.
Netflix is hardly the first to “borrow” the TikTok format for its own app. Social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, have also launched their own TikTok rivals in recent months.
But Netflix isn’t a direct competitor with TikTok — except to the extent that any mobile app competes for users’ time and attention, as there are only so many hours in a day.
Instead, the new feed is more of an acknowledgment that the TikTok format of a full-screen vertical video feed with quick engagement buttons on the side is becoming a default style of sorts for presenting entertaining content.
“We’re always looking for new ways to improve the Netflix experience,” a Netflix spokesperson said, confirming the experiment. “A lot of our members love comedy so we thought this would be an exciting new way to help them discover new shows and enjoy classic scenes. We experiment with these types of tests in different countries and for different periods of time — and only make them broadly available if people find them useful,” they added.
India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which oversees programs beamed on television and theatres in the country, will now also regulate policies for streaming platforms and digital news outlets in a move that is widely believed to kickstart an era of more frequent and stricter censorship on what online services air.
The new rules (PDF), signed by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind this week, might end the years-long efforts by digital firms to self-regulate their own content to avoid the broader oversight that impacts television channels and theatres and whose programs appeared on those platforms. (Streaming platforms may be permitted to continue to self-regulate and report to I&B, similar to how TV channels follow a programming code and their self-regulatory body works with I&B. But there is no clarity on this currently.)
For instance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting currently certifies what movies hit the theatres in the country and the scenes they need to clip or alter to receive those certifications. But movies and shows appearing on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video did not require a certification and had wider tolerance for sensitive subjects.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has previously also ordered local television channels to not air sensitive documentaries.
India’s Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology previously oversaw online streaming services, but it did not enforce any major changes. The ministry also oversees platforms where videos are populated by users.
Officials of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have previously argued that with proliferation of online platforms in India — there are about 600 million internet users in the country — there needs to be parity between regulations on them and traditional media sources.
“There is definitely a need for a level playing field for all media. But that doesn’t mean we will bring everybody under a heavy regulatory structure. Our government has been focused on ease of doing business and less regulation, but more effective regulation,” said Amit Khare, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, earlier this year.
The move by the world’s second largest internet market is bound to make players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney’s Hotstar, Times Internet’s MX Player, and dozens of other streaming services and web-based news outlets more cautious about what all they choose to stream and publish on their platforms, an executive with one of the top streaming services told TechCrunch, requesting anonymity.
Digital news outlets and platforms that cover “current affairs” will now also be overseen by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Over the years, the Indian government has pressured advertisers and indulged in other practices to shape what several news channels show to their audiences.
Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javdekar is expected to address this week’s announcement in an hour. We will update the story with additional details.
On paper, “The Queen’s Gambit” might not sound like a compelling drama: Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, the Netflix series tells the story of Beth Harmon as she rises through the world of competitive chess, eventually taking on the world champion from the Soviet Union.
But on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, your hosts are unanimous in their love for the series. We talk a bit about some of the flaws (a setup-heavy first episode, the unsatisfying treatment of Beth’s friend Jolene), but for the most part, we’re happy to spend our time praising the show.
Some of that has to do with the period setting — “The Queen’s Gambit” traces Beth’s life through the 1950s and ’60s, with some delightfully retro sets and costumes, along with a clear-eyed approach towards the condescension and sexism that Beth faces in her early matches.
At the same time, it’s Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who pulls you through all eight episodes as they depict her complex relationship with her foster mother, her struggles with substance abuse and her friendships with other chess players. While Beth has a handful traits you’ll recognize from other difficult geniuses portrayed on-screen, she’s ultimately too complex to boil down to a single idea or logline.
And while you don’t need to know much about chess to enjoy “The Queen’s Gambit,” the show’s focus on character and personality allows it to depict competitive chess in a way that is, in fact, thrilling.
To be clear, it’s not a regular TV channel but rather something you access on Netflix’s website. But like a broadcast or cable channel, it ditches streaming’s on-demand side. Instead, you watch whatever movie or TV show is playing right now.
Netflix previously tested a Shuffle button, so apparently it’s very interested in exploring a viewer experience where you just turn the TV on and veg out. The service says it’s testing this in France because “many viewers like the idea of programming that doesn’t require them to choose what they are going to watch.”
Netflix is testing out a programmed linear content channel, similar to what you get with standard broadcast and cable TV, for the first time (via Variety). The streaming company will still be streaming said channel – it’ll be accessed via Netflix’s browser-based website – and it will be initially available in France only, having rolled out to select areas in November 5, with plans to expand to more of France through December.
The channel is called Netflix Direct, and is exclusively available to subscribers of the regular Netflix streaming service. It will show TV shows and movies from France, the U.S. and other regions, selected from Netflix’s existing content library. The reasoning behind the launch in France in particular, according to the streaming giant, is that a lot of viewers in the country tend to like watching programming without having to select what it is specifically they’re going to watch next.
Netflix previously launched a test of a tool that provided that – a ‘Shuffle’ button that would play stuff it thinks you’d like at random from its recommendation trove. That was individual per users, however – while the new Netflix Direct approach is a fixed slate of programming that’s the same for everyone who tunes in, much more like traditional TV.
For all its strengths, Netflix definitely doesn’t have the same ability to channel surf or essentially veg out and let the TV take away any decision fatigue, so this could be the answer to that. It’s definitely an interesting experiment for Netflix, but we’ll see if it catches on or expands to more geographies with different viewing preferences.
Netflix is apparently fighting controversy about a film on its platform by issuing copyright takedown requests against tweets that include negative commentary about the movie, according to a new report.
TorrentFreak reported today that Netflix has sent dozens of takedown requests to Twitter targeting specific posts that criticize the movie Cuties (Mignonnes), a French film written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré and released in the United States on Netflix in September. While the tweets are still live (except where the original posters deleted them), the videos attached to the post now display messages reading, “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”
Why this movie?
Cuties is a coming-of-age drama about a Black girl in France on the cusp of adolescence. She rebels against her immigrant parents’ traditional culture, in which women remain quietly covered up at home, by going overboard in the opposite direction—taking to dance and social media to express a sexuality she is too young to understand the implications of and too new to Western culture to know how to frame it all. Doucouré won a directing award for the film at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in January.
Three Tokyo slackers find themselves drawn into a parallel world where they must play games to survive in Alice in Borderland.
A video-game-obsessed young man and his two best friends find themselves in a strange version of Tokyo where they must compete in dangerous games to survive in Alice in Borderland, a new live action original series from Netflix. Based on the Japanese manga by Haro Aso, it looks like a hybrid of Alice in Wonderland and Ready Player One, with a dash of the 1997 sci-fi horror film, Cube, thrown in for good measure. The series is directed by Shinsuke Sato, best known for 2001’s The Princess Blade and last year’s Kingdom, and co-written by Haro Aso and Yasuko Kuramitsu.
First serialized in 2010, the manga series ended its run in 2016. It tells the story of Ryōhei Arisu, and his pals Karube and Segawa, a group of bored high schoolers who long for more exciting lives. Arisu’s wish is granted during a fireworks celebration: he and his friends find themselves in a post-apocalyptic parallel world known as Borderland, where they must play a series of dangerous games to survive.
The Netflix adaptation follows the same basic premise, with a few minor tweaks. Per the official synopsis: “Arisu—a listless, jobless and video-game-obsessed young man—suddenly finds himself in a strange, emptied-out version of Tokyo in which he and his friends must compete in dangerous games in order to survive. In this strange world, Arisu meets Usagi, a young woman who’s navigating the games alone. Together, they set out to unravel one mystery after another as they risk their lives and confront what it means to live.”
About a year and a half after the last price increase, Netflix is bumping up the cost for most of its monthly plans in the US by one to two dollars.
Here’s how the changes break down:
The “Premium” plan (4k and 4 simultaneous streams) will go from $15.99 a month to $17.99.
The “Standard” plan (1080p and 2 simultaneous streams) will go from $12.99 a month to $13.99
The “Basic” plan (SD and 1 stream at a time) will stay at $8.99
The price increase is effective immediately if you’re a new customer. If you’re an existing customer, meanwhile, expect the price shift to take place sometime within the next two months according to CNBC.
Netflix doesn’t outright say why they’re increasing the price now — but between a massive increase in usage/demand during lockdown, an ever-growing number of competitors battling for the same marquee exclusives, and the added cost and complexity of producing original content during a pandemic, it’s not hard to imagine where their costs might be going up.
MarketerHire, a Los Angeles-based startup backed by a slew of executives from some of the city’s hottest startups, launched its new service matching freelance marketing experts with open jobs listed on its platform.
“Today’s startup economy depends on the expertise of industry specialists as much or more than full-time generalists,” said Nick Green, co-founder and CEO Thrive Market, MarketerHire customer and investor, in a statement. “For a lot of high-growth companies, it no longer makes sense to build a big in-house team; better to leverage the best specialists to get the job done, and MarketerHire enables that talent to be easily found and matched — and all remote.”
To date, the company has raised $4 million in financing from executives like Green and other undisclosed c-suite executives from startups like Zillow, FabFitFun, Seamless and Notion .
The company provides a pre-vetted pool of marketing experts and matches those professionals with open positions posted by brands and agencies based on the qualifications, education, skills and project details they submit. Brands can typically fill their open positions in as little as 48 hours, the company said.
The new upgrade to the company’s service provides brands with a faster matching service based on machine learning algorithms designed to parse available jobs over different attributes across specific functions.
“The term ‘marketing’ has morphed to broadly encompass a growing list of niche specialties and platform-specific skills — from SEO and SMS to Amazon and TikTok,” said investor Andy Appelbaum, Managing Partner of RiverPark Ventures and co-founder of Seamless, in a statement. “As the algorithms, best practices, and expertise required for effective digital marketing rapidly evolve, organizations need instant access to expert talent to fill gaps in their internal teams.”
The company already counts a customer base that includes Allbirds, Netflix, PUMA, and Quip and it pulls its marketing professionals from a roster of former marketing executives from companies like Netflix, Sephora, Rothy’s, Facebook, Uber, and Glossie. And the industry it’s tackling accounts for some $248.9 billion in business spending.
George Clooney directs and stars in The Midnight Sky, based on the the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.
Netflix has bet heavily this year on high-profile feature films starring A-list talent: first with Chris Hemsworth in Extraction, and then with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron in The Old Guard. That bet has largely paid off. Now the streaming platform has tapped another Oscar winner, George Clooney, to direct and star in the post-apocalyptic science fiction film The Midnight Sky. It’s adapted from the critically acclaimed 2016 debut novel, Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton, which has been compared to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. The official trailer just dropped, and it’s giving us some strong Away vibes (which, alas, has been canceled by Netflix after just one season).
In the novel, a brilliant astronomer named Augustine is posted to the Arctic, scanning the night sky for clues about the birth of the universe. Then a mysterious global apocalypse occurs, prompting all his fellow scientists to evacuate. But Augustine remains behind, dedicated to continuing his research, even as the airwaves go silent. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts aboard the spaceship Aether is set to return to Earth after a mission to Jupiter. On board is Sully, who sacrificed her marriage and left her daughter behind in order to become one of the first humans to travel so far in our Solar System. The astronauts are unaware of the catastrophe that has befallen Earth, and it falls to Augustine to warn them not to return.
Snow is white, space is black
Clooney’s film adaptation looks like it will hew closely to the novel. Per the official premise: “This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine (Clooney, Syriana, Argo), a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully (Felicity Jones, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.” The cast also includes David Oyelowo (Selma, Don’t Let Go) as Commander Tom Adewole, Ethan Peck (Star Trek: Discovery), Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders), Kyle Chandler (Bloodline, First Man) as Matthew, Tiffany Boone (The Following) as Maya, Demián Bichir (A Better Life) as Sanchez, and Caoilinn Springall as Iris, a mysterious child that Augustine befriends in the Arctic.
Netflix announced this morning that it’s partnering with Ubisoft to adapt the game publisher’s “Assassin’s Creed” franchise into a live action series.
The franchise jumps around in history, telling the story of a secret society of assassins with “genetic memory” and their centuries-long battle the knights templar. It has sold 155 million games worldwide and was also turned into a nearly incomprehensible 2016 film starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, which underperformed at the box office.
“We’re excited to partner with Ubisoft and bring to life the rich, multilayered storytelling that Assassin’s Creed is beloved for,” said Netflix’s vice president of original series Peter Friedlander in a statement. “From its breathtaking historical worlds and massive global appeal as one of the best selling video game franchises of all time, we are committed to carefully crafting epic and thrilling entertainment based on this distinct IP and provide a deeper dive for fans and our members around the world to enjoy.”
It sounds like there could be follow-up shows as well, with the announcement saying that Netflix and Ubisoft will “tap into the iconic video game’s trove of dynamic stories with global mass appeal for adaptations of live action, animated, and anime series.”
The third-quarter earnings cycle is just getting underway, but we’ve already seen a few companies post numbers that investors did not like. Netflix missed on several metrics yesterday and was punished, and today Intel is joining the video streaming giant in stock-market purgatory.
Intel shares are off around 10% in after-hours trading after the chip company reported its Q3 data. Investors had expected Intel to report an adjusted $1.11 in per-share profit, off around 22% from the year-ago period. They also expected it to report revenues of $18.26 billion in Q3, down a more modest 5% compared to the year-ago Q3.
Notably, Intel beat revenue expectations with top line of $18.3 billion, and met earnings-per-share estimates of $1.11, on an adjusted basis.
Quick consensusappears to point to weakness in the company data-focused business unit, the smaller of Intel’s two halves (the other focuses on PC chips). Inside the data-side of Intel, its Data Center Group (DCG) had mixed results, including cloud revenue growth of 15%. However, at the same time, the DCG’s “Enterprise & Government” business shrank 47% compared to the year-ago period, following what Intel described as “two quarters of more than 30 percent growth.”
Off that weakness, the resulting top line miss was sharp, with the market expecting $6.22 billion in revenue and DCG only delivering $5.9 billion.
Intel blamed COVID-19 for the weak economics conditions at play in the result. The company also highlighted COVID-19 when it discussed results from its internet of things business and memory operation, which declined 33% and 11% on a year-over-year basis, respectively.
Perhaps due to COVID-19’s recent resurgence in both North America and Europe, investors are concerned that the macroeconomic issues harming Intel’s growth could continue. If so, growth could be negative for a longer period than anticipated. That perspective could have led to some selling of Intel’s equity after the earnings report.
Could guidance have a part to play in Intel’s share price decline? Probably not. Better than what it reported for Q3 2020, Intel’s forward guidance shows a small revenue beat versus expectations, and a small profit beat as well. Intel forecasts revenues of $17.4 billion for Q4 2020 and adjusted earnings per share of $1.10, while the street was looking for $17.34 billion in top line and adjusted earnings per share of $1.06.
Given that Intel is prepped to best expectations in Q4, it’s hard to pin its share-price declines on guidance. That leaves the weakness in its data business as the most obvious culprit.
It is dangerous to over-describe why a stock or a group of stocks move at any given time. But in this case, it seems plain that the revenue miss inside Intel’s data business was at least a portion of why it shed value. As to whether the company’s COVID-19 notes are valid is up to you and how you handicap the broader economy.
Working with Norfolk State University, the alma mater of one of the company’s senior software engineers, and the online education platform, 2U, Netflix is developing a virtual boot camp for students to gain exposure to the tech industry.
That program will be divided into three tracks — Java Engineering, UX/UI Design and Data Science. Experts from Netflix will work with 2U to design each track and all courses will be led by faculty from Norfolk State University and feature guest lecturers from the tech industry, the company said.
Members from the company’s data science, engineering, and design teams will serve as mentors — including Norfolk State alumnus Michael Chase.
Netflix will foot the bill for students accepted into the program, and they’ll get course credit for completing the boot camp, the company said.
“The goal is for participants to come away better equipped with industry-relevant skills to enter today’s workforce and with valuable, long-lasting relationships,” Kabi Gishuru, the company’s director of Inclusion Recruiting Programs wrote in a statement. “As we continue to invest in building the best service for our members, we want to invest in the best team to support it. Creating space in the industry for all voices will only make it stronger.”
Granted, Bly Manor never quite reaches the same level as the exquisitely rendered Hill House, but it’s nonetheless a “perfectly splendid” ghost story that doubles as a quiet, thoughtful reflection on love and loss, in keeping with the oblique writing style of James. Between Doctor Sleep, Hill House, and Bly Manor, Flanagan has pretty much established himself as the reigning master of reinventing classic horror stories for a modern audience.
(Some spoilers for The Turn of the Screw,The Innocents, and The Turning. Only mild spoilers for Bly Manor; no major reveals.)
Netflix plans to give users in India access to its service at no charge for a weekend as part of a test to expand its reach in the country, a company executive said Tuesday.
The American streaming giant, which recently stopped offering a free first-month trial to new users in the U.S., will continue to think of new ways to market its service, said Greg Peters, COO and Chief Product Officer at Netflix on the company’s earnings call.
One of those new ways is testing giving away access to Netflix at no charge to customers for a weekend in different markets, he said. The company has picked India as the first market and “will see how that goes,” he said.
Why is Netflix suddenly worth about 5% less than before? A mixed earnings report, a disappointing new paying customer number, and slightly slack guidance appear to be the answer.
Heading into the third quarter, Netflix told investors that they should expect it to generate revenues of $6.33 billion, operating income of $1.25 billion, and net income of around $954 million, worth about $2.09 in earnings per share.
Today, Netflix reported $6.44 billion in revenue, operating income of $1.32 billion, along with $1.74 in per-share profit off of net income of $790 million.
Netflix bested its revenue goals, but fell short on profitability.
The company also managed to best analyst revenue expectations of $6.38 billion, while missing out on analyst per-share profit expectations of $2.13.
Adding to the pain, Netflix also missed expectations on new customer adds. In its Q2 earnings, Netflix said that it “forecast[ed] 2.5m paid net adds for Q3’20 vs. 6.8m in the prior year quarter,” because its “strong first half performance likely pulled forward some demand from the second half of the year.”
Looking ahead, Netflix says that in Q4 it expects revenues of $6.57 billion, operating income of $885 million, $615 million in net income, earnings per share of $1.35, and 6.0 million new paid customers in the period. The street had been looking for $6.58 billion in top line, and just $0.94 in per-share profit, so it’s hard to parse which part of the forecast is driving more investor sentiment.
Regardless, today’s earnings report will not move Netflix’s share price too far from its recent, all-time highs. The company may take a ding from its profit miss, but nothing material.
Today’s earnings report shows the company falling short of that already-underwhelming goal, with only 2.2 million net additions, bringing its total subscriber base to 195 million. And it’s forecasting 6.0 million net additions in Q4, compared to 8.8 million in the same period last year.
“As we have highlighted in our recent investor letters, we believe our record first half paid net additions would result in slower growth in the back half of this year,” the company said in its letter to shareholders. “If we achieve our forecast, it will put us at a record 34m paid net adds for 2020, well above our prior annual high of 28.6m in 2018.”
The company also said that “retention remains healthy and engagement per member household was up solidly year over year.”
While the pandemic may have accelerated Netflix’s user growth, it also halted film production for safety reasons. That’s meant a slowing release schedule — though the delay is less noticeable for Netflix, since it had so many shows and movies in the pipeline.
With production resuming, the company said it’s actually completed principal photography on more than 50 productions since mid-March, with plans to do the same for 150 additional productions by the end of the year.
The fourth season of “Stranger Things,” the second season of “The Witcher” and action film ”Red Notice” (starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds) have all resumed production as well.
The announcement includes viewership numbers for a handful of shows and movies released in the last quarter: 43 million subscribers chose to watch the new season of “The Umbrella Academy,” 48 million chose to watch “Ratched,” 38 million chose to watch “The Social Dilemma” and 78 million chose to watch the Charlize Theron action movie “The Old Guard.” (Reminder: Netflix’s “chose to watch” metric refers to the number of subscribers who watched at least two minutes of a program.)
As part of this new strategy, the company is undergoing a major reorganisation of its media and entertainment business that will focus on developing productions that will debut on its streaming and broadcast services.
This will include merging the company’s media businesses, ads and distribution, and Disney+ divisions so that they’ll now operate under the same business unit.
As TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber reports, Disney’s announcement follows a significant change to its release schedule to address new realities, including a collapsing theatrical release business; production issues; and the runaway success of its Disney+ streaming service — all caused or accelerated by the national failure to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic.
So what better time than now to give Disney+ the Extra Crunch user experience teardown treatment. With the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of the things Disney+ gets right and things that should be fixed. They include zero distractions while signing up, “the power of percentages,” and the importance of designing for trackpad, mouse and touch outside of native applications.
Zero distractions while signing up
If the user is trying to complete a very specific task — such as making a payment — don’t distract them. They’re experiencing event-driven behaviour.
The win: Disney have almost entirely removed any kind of distractions when signing up. This includes the header and footer. They want you to stay on-task.
Image Credits: Disney+
Steve O’Hear: This seems like a very easy win but one we don’t see as often as perhaps we should. Am I right that most sign-up flows aren’t this distraction-free and why do you think that is?
Peter Ramsey: Yeah, it’s such an easy win. Sometimes you see sign-up screens that have Google Adwords on it, and I think, “You’re risking the user getting distracted and leaving for what, half a penny?” If I had to guess why more companies don’t utilise this technique, it’s probably just because they don’t want to deal with the technical hassle of hiding a bunch of elements.
The power of percentages
Only use percentages when it makes sense. 80% off sounds like a lot, but 3% doesn’t. Percentages can be a great way of making a discount seem larger than it actually is, but sometimes it can have the reverse effect. This is because people are generally bad at accurately estimating discounts. “What’s 13% off £78?”
The fail: If you sign up to a year of Disney+, then you’re offered 16% free. But 16% of a £60 bundle isn’t easy to calculate in your head — so people guess. And sometimes, their guesses may be less than the actual value of the discount.
The fix: In this instance, it would be far more compelling (and require less mental arithmetic), if it was marketed as “60 days free.” Sixty days is both easy to understand and easy to assign value to.
Image Credits: Disney+
Percentages may be harder to process or evaluate in isolation as an end user but they are easy to compare with each other i.e., we all know 25% off is better than 10% off. Aren’t you advocating obscuring the actual saving in favour of what sounds better on a case-by-case basis and therefore actually working against the end user? Of course I’m playing devils advocate a little here.
So, it’s actually a really complex dilemma, and there’s no “easy” answer — this would probably make a great dinner time conversation. Yes, if you’re offering two discounts, then a percentage may be the easiest way for people to compare them.
“Emily in Paris,” a new series on Netflix, has provoked skeptical responses from actual Parisians who are happy to point out the abundant clichés in its story of a young American (played by Lily Collins) who takes a last-minute transfer to a marketing agency in Paris.
Some fairly obvious culture clash moments ensue, along with equally implausible storylines where Emily’s extremely basic ideas about social media are treated as controversial and groundbreaking by her employer.
And yet, as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we actually found the show delightful — or at the very least, highly watchable.
Yes, the show’s Paris is a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy that we’re happy to visit, particularly now. Yes, most of the show’s characters are basically cartoons, but they’re entertaining and fun cartoons. And at the end of the day, we’re all suckers for a slick, escapist romantic comedy, which is exactly what “Emily in Paris” delivers.
There’s nothing excessively bad about “Enola Holmes,” a new film about Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister Enola. But there’s nothing particularly good, either.
The film was originally planned for a theatrical release from Warner Bros., but Netflix picked it up earlier this year, after the pandemic shuttered theaters around the world.
“Enola Holmes” stars Millie Bobby Brown as titular adolescent detective, along with Henry Cavill as Sherlock, and they’re both … fine? Neither of them seems to be phoning it in, and Cavill is downright charming at times. And although Brown has admitted that she struggled to reacquire her English accent, she brings plenty of energy to her role, which includes plenty of fourth-wall-breaking monologues that fill the audience in on backstory and explain the solutions to not-particularly-puzzling mysteries.
As we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, the film seems competent in virtually every respect, but thoroughly inspired, leaving us underwhelmed by the results — Anthony to the point where he was pacing around the room and wondering about his life choices. But hey, maybe kids will enjoy watching it?
Facebook announced this morning it’s bringing a number of new features and services to its family of Portal devices, including support for Netflix and Zoom. The company will also introduce easier ways to launch Netflix and other video streaming apps via one-touch buttons on its new remote, in addition to expanding its selection of its stories offered through its Story Time feature, adding new ways to use AR effects, and introducing Spanish-language voice control, among other things.
Portal TV, the media device that works with your TV at home, today offers access to a range of streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, and Sling TV. But, until now, one of the most important streaming services — Netflix — had been missing. Facebook says Netflix will now be introduced to Portal TV in all countries where Portal is sold.
It will also introduce a new remote that will include one-touch buttons for launching streaming apps, like Prime Video, Netflix, and its own Facebook Watch. This will ship with new Portal TV devices starting today and will be sold in stores in the coming weeks.
The news of Portal TV’s Netflix integration follows shortly after Amazon’s September announcement that it would support the popular streaming service on its own Amazon Echo Show smart displays, three years after the Echo Show line’s original debut. Google, too, recently added Netflix to its smart display lineup, with support arriving on its Nest Hub and Hub Max earlier this year.
The timing of these updates hint that negotiations with Netflix over smart display integrations had been taking place industry-wide, as Netflix worked to make to make its service available across the various platforms.
Netflix began rolling out to Portal TV units via an update late last night, so all Portal TV users should have the app available now.
Image Credits: Facebook
Facebook will also bring Zoom to its Portal devices for video-calling, it says. In August, Zoom had confirmed its plans to support smart displays, including Echo Show and Google Nest Hub Max, as well as Portal from Facebook.
With Portal support, Zoom users will be able to host a video call with up to 25 people on the screen, while leveraging the device’s high-fidelity sound and its AI-powered Smart Camera for hands-free calling, says Facebook. The support will be added to Portal Mini, Portal, and Portal+ in all regions where the device is sold.
Portal’s AR features are getting an update, too. Users will be able to control AR effects in Photo Booth using their voice and the “Hey Portal” command to send themed cards and take photos and video with AR effects to send to friends and family.
“Hey Portal” will also now work in U.S. Spanish, in addition to English, with more languages expected to come in the future. On-screen text on Portal can be displayed in French, Spanish, Italian, and English, however.
“Away,” a new drama on Netflix, tells the story of the first manned expedition to Mars — Emma Green (played by Hilary Swank) leads an international team of astronauts on the three-year mission, while her husband Matt (Josh Charles) is part of the support team back on Earth.
As we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, the show starts a bit slowly, and its space sequences (particularly an early space walk) aren’t quite as thrilling as we’d hoped.
But “Away” excels at creating compelling human drama — there’s believable tension on the spaceship and in mission control, and pain and guilt on both sides as the astronauts are separated from their loved ones for the long journey to-and-from Mars.
Anthony admitted that before watching, he worried that the show might be a bit too weepy and melodramatic. Instead, he was impressed by the way it made all the storylines feel natural and important, no matter how high or low the stakes. And we also appreciated how the astronauts’ backstories are filled in via flashbacks — the third episode, focused on Chinese astronaut Lu Wang (Vivian Lu), was an early highlight.
Yesterday, Baltimore-based fintech company Facet Wealth said it raised $25 million in financing as it readies a new business line pitching financial planning as an employment benefit to businesses looking to recruit top talent.
The thesis certainly managed to attract a big-money backer, with Warburg Pincus, the multi-billion dollar private equity investment firm which doubled down on its commitment with the new financing into the company.
The company said the latest round would be used to finance the expansion of Facet Wealth’s direct-to-consumer business even as it readies its employee benefit service for launch.
Already customers are signing up for pre-launch partnerships to get their employees on the program. Early wannabe users include ClassPass, MyVest and ChiliPiper, the company said.
“Since our first investment two years ago, the Facet Wealth team has proven their ability to meet a unique consumer need, evolving and expanding their offering to build a truly innovative client experience and business model”, said Jeff Stein, Managing Director at Warburg Pincus. “Their expansion into the employer market further solidifies them as a category-defining company that is well-positioned to disrupt the wealth management industry for years to come.”
To date, Facet Wealth has raised $62 million in funding from Warburg Pincus, Slow Ventures and other, undisclosed investors.
Digital currency exchange Coinbase has probably done more than most to push cryptocurrencies closer to the mainstream, earning an $8 billion valuation by private investors along the way. The company is reportedly eyeing a public listing next year, and is inarguably doing a lot of things right. However, that doesn’t mean its product experience is perfect. In fact, far from it.
In our latest UX teardown, with the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of Coinbase’s biggest user experience failings and offer ways to fix them. Many of these lessons can be applied to other existing digital products or ones you are currently building, including the need to avoid the “Get Started” trap, the importance of providing feedback, why familiarity often wins and other principles.
The ‘Get Started’ trap
Only use CTAs like “get started” or “learn more” if you’re actually teaching users something.
The fail: Coinbase doesn’t actually have any onboarding — but it looks like it does. It has a very prominent “get started” CTA, which actually just puts bitcoins in your basket. This isn’t helping you get started, it’s nothing more than an onboarding Trojan horse.
The fix: It’s simple: Don’t lie in your CTAs. You wouldn’t have “Email Support” as a CTA, and then just show the user a bunch of FAQs.
Steve O’Hear: This feels like another classic “bait and switch” and reeks of dark pattern design. However, what if it actually works to get users over the line and purchase their first bitcoin? Growth hackers, rejoice, no?
Peter Ramsey: You’re absolutely right, this may convert better. From a business point of view, this could be a brilliant little growth hack. However, something converting well doesn’t mean it was a good experience for the user. Look at clickbait-y journalism — it gets more eyeballs, but people aren’t generally happy with what they read.
I’m convinced that in the long term having a great product will perform better than frustrating short-term growth hacks.
As a general rule of thumb, all “states” — e.g., success/failure of an action — need to provide feedback to the user.
The fail: After adding a card, you click “Add Card,” and … it takes you back to the homepage. There’s no notice if it was successful or not. The user has no awareness if the action they were trying to do failed and they need to do it again. This is a real problem with digital products: All feedback needs to be thought of and built.
The fix: During the design phase, consider statuses and what the user will want feedback on. For example, if they’ve just added an item to their “wishlist,” how will you show them that the action was successful?
Amazon announced the Echo Show line in 2017, and today, it’s finally gaining access to Netflix. The video service joins Hulu and Prime Video as the only officially supported video streaming apps.6
The news came from Amazon’s yearly Echo event where the company unveiled a series of new products and services including redesigned speakers and updated Alexa capabilities.
Amazon executives spoke on how they have data that shows Echo Show owners love watching content on the small screens. Netflix should make that crowd happy. When Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video is viewed on the just-announced Echo Show 10, the unit will swivel on its motorized stand, following the viewer if they move around the room.
Victoria Pedretti stars as a governess to two orphans on a spooky estate in The Haunting of Bly Manor.
The Halloween season is almost upon us, so brace yourselves for the annual onslaught of horror fare. But we’re also getting a good old-fashioned spooky ghost story with the Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, loosely based on The Turn of the Screw while incorporating several other ghost stories by Henry James. The series is showrunner Mike Flanagan’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2018’s exquisitely brooding The Haunting of Hill House. The first teaser dropped earlier this month, and now the streaming platform has released the full trailer.
(Spoilers for the Henry James novel below.)
The Haunting of Hill House shared the top spot in Ars’ 2018 list of our favorite TV shows with BBC’s Killing Eve. We loved Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy’s inventive reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, at once a Gothic ghost story and a profound examination of family dysfunction. It stayed true to the tone and spirit of the original, aided by dialogue, narration, and other small details from the source material. Small wonder that it garnered award nominations from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, Writers Guild of America, and Art Directors Guild.
Sarah Paulson plays Nurse Mildred Ratched in Ratched, series creator Evan Romansky’s prequel (of sorts) to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
One of the most iconic movie villains of all time gets the American Horror Story treatment in Ratched, Netflix’s star-studded prequel, of sorts, to Director Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning 1975 film,One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The series is richly styled and visually striking, and the cast is terrific, but there’s very little substance or insight, and the plotting is a meandering mess riddled with holes and inconsistent characterizations. It’s basically a body horror soap opera in which everything is dialed up to 11 for maximum shock value.
(Spoilers for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest book and film below. Some spoilers for Ratched but no major reveals.)
As I wrote previously, Forman’s film is based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. It’s set in a psychiatric hospital in Salem, Oregon, where Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is sent after faking insanity to escape a prison farm sentence for assault and the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. The cold, rigidly controlled (and controlling) Nurse Mildred Ratched (aka Big Nurse, played by Louise Fletcher) rules the place with an iron hand. She maintains order by withholding basic necessities, medications, or patient privileges—with the occasional bit of hydrotherapy and electroshock therapy for especially unruly patients—but McMurphy’s rebellious nature challenges her authority.
If that’s left you peckish for more German Netflix fare, you might check out two recent debuts: a sci-fi thriller series, Biohackers, about an ambitious young medical student seeking revenge on her mentor for the scientific sins of the past; and a film called Freaks: You’re One of Us, about a diner waitress who discovers she has a superpower—and she’s not the only “freak” with a special gift. Neither even comes close to the multilayered conceptual level of Dark, alas, but both provide well-executed, solid entertainment—and you won’t need a chart of multiple timelines to follow the plot.
Three Atlas crew members on the Moon: Ato essandoh as Dr. Kwesi Weisberg-Abban, Ray Panthaki as Ram Arya, and Vivian Wu as Lu Wang. [credit: Diyah Pera/Netflix ]
One evening in early November 2017, I met Andrew Hinderaker at a Houston restaurant named Nobi. Located just down the road from Johnson Space Center, Nobi offers a fantastic combination of Vietnamese food and a rich, rotating selection of draft beer. It’s a classic Houston joint, a fusion of cultures that is the better for it. As such, the restaurant serves as a popular watering hole for the space set.
Hinderaker and a friend of mine named Chris Jones were starting to write on a television show about a realistic human mission to Mars. “From the beginning, Chris and I have believed that this show should be neither naive nor pessimistic,” Hinderaker explained to me. “We believe that there is something aspirational about space exploration, even if the mechanisms that enable it are often bureaucratic.”
I loved the idea. Then, as now, I covered spaceflight, particularly the efforts of NASA, other space agencies, and private companies to expand humanity beyond low-Earth orbit. I had thought a lot about the politics and the technology that might one day enable a small band of humans to travel from Earth to Mars, land on the red planet for a while, and travel back. So Hinderaker and I talked through these issues.
The first season, which oozed onto the streaming platform in late January of this year, followed Paltrow and her exploited Goopers as they aimlessly took to the high seas of junk science and marinated in snake oil spas. Individual episodes explored important topics such as the bright side of hypothermia, the powers of a magician who can massage your aura with moves he learned watching The Karate Kid, Goopers tripping on mushrooms for pretty much no reason at all, the benefits of a $50 salmon fillet, and how to be a fortune-teller in case you need a back-up career in the circus.
Netflix just announced its plans to turn Cixin Liu’s “Three-Body Problem” trilogy into an original science fiction series.
The show will be executive produced and written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (best known as the showrunners behind “Game of Thrones,” the pair signed a multi-year deal with Netflix last year that was reportedly worth more than $200 million), along with Alexander Woo, who previously served as showrunner for “The Terror: Infamy.”
“The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson and his producing partner Ram Bergman are on-board as executive producers (Benioff and Weiss also spent some time working on a since-abandoned Star Wars trilogy), while Liu and his American translator Ken Liu (no relation) will serve as consulting producers.
“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting The Three-Body Problem for television audiences,” said Cixin Liu in a statement. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”
First published in serialized form in China in 2006, “The Three-Body Problem” and its sequels “The Dark Forest” and “Death’s Edge” (the whole series is also known as “Remembrance of Earth Past”) tells the story humanity’s encounter with a mysterious alien race known as the Trisolarans. After its American publication in 2014, it was the first Asian novel to win science fiction’s Hugo Award and it attracted high-profile fans including President Barack Obama.
The series is distinguished for its detailed scientific extrapolation, its wildly inventive plotting, and its broad perspective, ultimately covering a vast swath of human history. (I’d also argue that “The Dark Forest” includes the most spectacular space battle ever committed to print.)
“Liu Cixin’s trilogy is the most ambitious science-fiction series we’ve read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe,” Benioff and Weiss said in a statement. “We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world.”