Netflix Greenlights ‘Sacred Games’ Second Season; Korean Espionage Drama ‘Vagabond’

As expected, Netflix has greenlighted a second season of “Sacred Games,”  the eight-episode Indian police drama starring Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan that became a global hit for the subscription streaming video behemoth.

“Games” is one of six new original programs Netflix has in production in India in 2019.

While the Mumbai-set crime drama was praised for its theatrical production values and aggressive storylines, the future of the series was put in doubt last year after reported allegations of sexual misconduct by a senior executive with the show’s production company – Phantom Films – surfaced.

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Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos last year on a trip to Mumbai said the company investigated claims “Games” showrunners Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap ignored the allegations and found no wrongdoing on their behalf.

“We are committed to making sure that the workplace [on Netflix programs] is safe and respectful, always,” Sarandos told Indian media. “We have instituted harassment training on all our productions in India — it is the same exact program we do in the U.S. and everywhere in the world. And everybody from the top to bottom of the production must go through it before we roll cameras.”

Netflix initiated the training following allegations of inappropriate behavior by “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey made national headlines.

Lee Seung Gi and Bae Suzy in Korean spy drama, ‘Vagabond.’

Separately, Vagabond, an action-packed Korean espionage drama series, starring Lee Seung-gi (The King 2 HeartsA Korean Odyssey) and Bae Suzy (Architecture 101, While You Were Sleeping), will launch globally in September. It will be available on Netflix exclusively outside Korea.

Ted Sarandos: 20 Million People Streamed ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ the First Week on Netflix

Netflix doesn’t release ratings or viewership data for original programming.

But that didn’t stop Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos from disclosing that 20 million people streamed original feature-length movie The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell as a brash-talking (and singing) Santa Claus, during its first week of release.

Speaking Dec. 3 at the UBS 46th Annual Global Media and Communications confab in New York, Sarandos conveyed that Russell told him none of his movies had ever attracted that many viewers in the first seven days of release.

“That’s a testimony … we can bring to the market for storytellers today,” Sarandos said. “We probably couldn’t have done that 10 years ago.”

The executive used the anecdote to underscore his long-running battle against the 90-day theatrical window. A mindset that Sarnados believes all theatrical releases should be made available across all distribution channels simultaneously.

“If every one of those views was a movie purchase, that’s a $200 million opening week,” he said. “Even movies that go on to make $1 billion, don’t typically do that the first week. The ability to tap into that big audience differentiates us from everybody else.”

It’s controversial stance that has resulted in exhibitors, film festivals and Hollywood largely shunning Netflix films at the box office and awards circuit. Critics contend the SVOD giant is leaving money on the table, undermining content creators, producers and actors financially by streaming new-release movies globally to subscribers paying $9 a month for access.

Sarandos disagrees, arguing his approach to distribution simply bucks the tradition around the opening box office weekend.

“It’s saying, ‘I really want my movie in the culture. I want people to talk about my movie in line at Starbucks,’” Sarandos said. “I want to be the topic of discussion with my story that I’ve invested my entire life telling.”

Sarandos said studio executives grew up in a world where that was the definition of the Zeitgeist: Being the No. 1 movie at the box office.

Separately, the executive expressed little concern about pending over-the-top video platforms from Disney and WarnerMedia.

He said the new competition has been on management’s mind for a while and prompted Netflix’s foray into original programming years ago with “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Lilyhammer,” “Arrested Development,” and “Hemlock Grove,” among others.

“They represented everything from comedy to drama to horror,” Sarandos said.

Netflix is now a global producer of on-demand content across all genres, including 20 original unscripted TV shows streaming this year compared to zero last year.

The service will stream 70 local-language original shows in 2019. Sarandos said local productions featuring local casts and language are becoming worldwide hits, including most-recently Germany’s “Dark,” Denmark’s “The Rain,” and India’s “Sacred Games”.

“They have been remarkably relevant in their home countries,” he said. “We’re not trying to make Hollywood content for the world. We’re trying to make content from anywhere in the world to the rest of the world.

Netflix just released “Bodyguard,” a joint venture with the BBC, underscoring the fact 80% of new subscriber growth is originating internationally, which mandates global – not Hollywood – content production, according to Sarandos.

“We’re better off deciding our own destiny and making our own choices with the consumer in mind than a bunch of competitors in mind,” Sarandos said. “Some of those things [third-party SVOD services] will successful, but not to the detriment of Netflix.”





Netflix Bows First Original Series in India

Netflix July 4 began streaming “Sacred Games,” the SVOD pioneer’s first original content in India. A global launch is set for July 6.

Next to China, India represents one of the biggest untapped consumer markets for Netflix and Amazon. The latter bowed its Prime membership platform in India in 2016, including Prime Video. Earlier this year, Amazon Music streaming service launched as well.

Streaming in Hindi and English, Mumbai mob drama “Sacred Games” features Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte, and Surveen Chawla, among others.

The series is the first of several Indian productions slated for global release on Netflix similar to original native shows in Germany (“Dark”) and Latin America, “Narcos”.

“There are great stories everywhere, but there are really four or five centers of TV and film (worldwide),”  Erik Barmack, VP, international originals at Netflix, told Reuters. “Mumbai is certainly one of them, and it is important for us, because we are going to be actively invested in India.”