Netflix's ambition to become the Internet's HBO is no gag, but it will try to get a laugh out of you anyway in the process.
The subscription streaming-video service announced four more comedy specials Thursday to premiere exclusively on its service this year, one-hour programs from Bill Cosby, Jim Jefferies, Bill Burr, and Chelsea Peretti.
The move underscores Netflix's ambitions to follow the path of HBO, a home not only to movies but also edgy series, documentary, and stand-up specials. Time Warner's HBO, along with Viacom's Comedy Central, are among a small sect of power players in television comedy specials in the US, and Netflix last year said it would be widening its original strategy beyond series to "broadly appealing" feature documentaries and specials. It said both types are "much loved and often under-distributed genres" that have made Netflix a fan destination.
Netflix's fixation on HBO bounced back into the public eye earlier this month, when Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings noted Netflix surpassed HBO in subscriber revenue in the previous quarter on his Facebook page. Netflix's subscriber numbers exceeded that of HBO's last year, but -- as Hastings himself noted -- the premium cable network still trumps its upstart competitor in profits and awards.
Netflix's track record with comedy specials is just as long as its better-known original-drama-series push, with the special "Moshe Kasher: Live in Oakland" premiering on the platform the same year as its first original series, "Lilyhammer." But only in the last year has Netflix put dedicated efforts behind beefing up the stand-up special genre with exclusives and promoting it as originals to Netflix.
The four new specials will be available in all territories Netflix operates.
"Bill Cosby 77" was taped at the San Francisco Jazz Center on the comedian's 77th birthday and will be available on November 28. Australian comic Jim Jefferies' show "Jim Jefferies: BARE" will be available August 29, and "Brooklyn 99" star Chelsea Peretti's "One of the Greats" will debut November 14. Bill Burr's special, "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way," comes December 5.
The company has already announced multiple additions to its comedy slate previously. Comedian Aziz Ansari said Netflix would be releasing his next special on November 1, Canadian comic Russell Peters' 70-minute stand-up special "Notorious" will be available on Netflix on October 14, and Chelsea Handler will premiere a one-hour stand-up comedy performance based on her tour "Uganda Be Kidding Me" on the service October 10.