When you want something in business, sometimes you just have to keep gunning for it.
That’s one takeaway from the launch of Chelsea Handler’s new talk show on Netflix, which represents a move into an entirely new style of programming for the streaming giant.
When Handler first approached Netflix, the company wasn’t necessarily in the market for a talk show. “I hit on them until they committed,” Handler told Wired.
Netflix’s head of content, Ted Sarandos, says Handler came up to him at a post-Oscar’s party in 2014: “Are you the Netflix guy?” she asked. The contract for Handler’s show on E!, “Chelsea Lately,” was winding down. She wanted to explore doing something with Netflix, and eventually Netflix did too.
“The late night show that didn’t have to be late night became really intriguing for us,” Sarandos told Wired.
Netflix’s first project with Handler was a four-part documentary series on topics like Silicon Valley and drugs called “Chelsea Does,” which Wired describes as a “test run” for “Chelsea,” the new show. Given the launch, the test run seems to have gone well, though Netflix famously doesn’t release data on its shows.
“Chelsea” will be a test of a different type for Netflix: whether “near-live” programming, which sits somewhere between fast-decaying news and the infinite replayability of Netflix’s usual shows, will be a hit. “Chelsea” will have new shows every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and analyst Richard Greenfield notes that it could prove to be a way for Netflix to introduce a recurring (and low-cost) relationship with subscribers — to keep them from cancelling. Gaining and keeping subscribers is, after all, Netflix’s main business.
Sarandos says the tone of “Chelsea” will not be as vulgar as Handler’s E! show, but not as serious as “Chelsea Does.” The show will have a travel component and interviews with “respected public figures,” according to Handler. But a big question will be if Handler’s irreverent personality will translate to Netflix’s international audiences.
Netflix, for its part, doesn’t want her to change. “I wouldn’t want to give up anything about Chelsea’s voice to be global,” Sarandos told Wired.
In a cheeky note (addressed to herself) that Handler posted on Instagram, she gave herself the following advice:
So, remember to keep a deeper, more culturally sensitive perspective, especially toward the Germans. They’re still touchy about everything they did.
Additional reporting by Jethro Nededog.