Netflix Steals ‘Black Mirror,’ More Shows to Follow?

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Recently, Netflix outbid U.K. public service network Channel 4 for the rights to produce the third season of the science-fiction show, “Black Mirror.”

This is an important transaction for many reasons, the largest of which is the fact that they might be able to start outbidding other TV networks for current shows on their networks!

“Black Mirror” was a huge hit in both Europe and in America, and Netflix began streaming that show a couple years ago. It has received both critical acclaim and a lot of love from sci-fi fans, as one of the newest takes on Twilight Zone-type shows.

The dark, dystopian anthology series was created by Charlie Brookier for Channel 4, and it originally aired the first two seasons in 2011 and 2013, and a 90-minute Christmas special starring Jon Hamm drew 2 million viewers on Dec. 16, 2014. Right around that time, Netflix began streaming the first two seasons in the United States.

It’s safe to say this is a major coup for the streaming giant, especially when the show they’re buying is getting great endorsements from major creators of fiction.

Netfliix commissioned a 12-episode Season 3 last fall, and it was assumed that Channel 4 would still air the show in the United Kingdom. That was not the case, however, and other TV networks should start looking over their shoulders at Netflix, hoping they don’t snatch a series or two away from them, as well!

What’s interesting is that Channel 4 apparently had the option to recommission the show in 2013, but they had initially passed.  Endemol Shine, which owns Brooker’s House of Tomorrow production company, explained as much in a statement.

”[Channel 4] passed on [the option to commission Season 3] and subsequent co-production offers put to them. Only following this and the first series’ exceptional performance when aired on Netflix did Netflix offer a longer order of 12 with an increased budget that allowed producers House of Tomorrow to realize their ambitions for the series. Further efforts were made to try to reach a settlement regarding a U.K. window for Channel 4, but these were also sadly to no avail.” – Endemol Shine

Channel 4, of course, denies that the network passed on the show, saying they actually did offer to recommission it.

‘Black Mirror’ Deal Scares Small Networks

Apparently, this has worried other European television networks, fearing that Netflix will also swoop in and take away any future successful shows that they air. How does a network succeed if it wants their shows to be successful – but not too successful?

It’s true, though, that there’s something unsettling about a giant corporation coming and stealing a successful show from a publically owned television network. But there are ways this can be fixed for the future.

Expect to see language written in future deals that allows the original network first option rights. Then also, if they can’t compete with what another company offers, then there should be  some compensation to that original network by the streaming giant. Maybe that compensation is in the form of a flat fee, continual residuals or even a contract to promote/stream some of its other content.

For instance, look at AMC, and independent Cable TV network, and the successful TV shows they’ve created through the years, including “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” and now, “Better Call Saul.” Imagine if Netflix came in and made a deal to take away one of their successful shows.

Obviously, AMC would work to keep their successful shows, and they have a lot more money to battle with than a publically owned British network. But what about in five years, when Netflix is suddenly one of the most powerful TV entities around? They already picked up “The Killing,” which showed moderate success on AMC before being canceled after Season 3. Netflix stepped up and ordered a fourth season of the drama in 2014, possibly testing the waters on moving viewers over.

What we know is – we want successful shows to get a chance to be more successful, and the companies that originally helped it get off the ground should indeed be rewarded.