Thanks to hordes of crazed "Stranger Things" fans, Netflix is testing the idea of merchandise for the retro sci-fi hit, a break from typical practice.
Netflix is exploring consumer products for "Stranger Things" because of the "huge demand for people who want a T-shirt with Eleven on it," the company's top content executive, Ted Sarandos, said Monday at a financial conference in New York.
"Down the road there might be some real business there," he said.
Merchandise is a cash cow for media companies like Disney, but it has never been part of the Netflix business. The streaming giant usually keeps "maniacally focused" on its video itself, as Sarandos put it Wednesday. But as Netflix settles into its role of global internet television provider, it has broadened the definition of what it makes, venturing into genres like reality TV, late-night-style talk shows, and live-audience sitcoms.
"Stranger Things" is also unique for Netflix because the title is free of any outside ownership complications, making merch simpler. It was the first original series Netflix developed in-house and produced itself. The rest of Netflix's originals have been developed with outside production companies or studios, which frequently gives other parties say over the intellectual property.
Sarandos added that the Duffer Brothers, the creators of "Stranger Things," pitched the show to 19 other programmers before finally getting the green light from Netflix. "I knew it was something special," he said, but he added that he was still surprised by the social-media response it ignited.
Also, prepare yourself to never leave the house: Sarandos said Netflix was being "conservative" when it estimated last month that it would produce 1,000 hours of original content next year. Netflix is making 30 scripted series as well as 20 unscripted shows, like international obstacle-course competition show "Ultimate Beastmaster." Netflix is nearing 40 original kids programs too, he said.
Live professional sports on Netflix are still a fantasy, though. Sarandos batted down -- again -- the idea that Netflix would seek to broadcast live pro sports anytime soon. Reiterating the company's standard lines, he said that the rights to it are too pricey and that on-demand video of games doesn't have much shelf-life once fans get the answer to the eternal question, "So, who won?"
But he opened the door to Netflix creating sports of of its own to chronicle. "League creation might be interesting," he said.
Updated at 4:08 p.m. PT to correct that Sarandos spoke Monday at a financial conference in New York.