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Netflix inks talk show deal, inches closer to TV network

Netflix plans a "late night" style talk show with comedian Chelsea Handler, moving it closer to an online TV channel.

Chelsea Handler
Comedian Chelsea Handler's talk show will debut in 2016. Getty Images

Netflix is taking its push for original content in a new direction, signing a deal with comedian Chelsea Handler to debut a "late night" style talk show in 2016 on its online video service.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming video company didn't have details on how the talk show would be recorded or released, other than to say it will debut simultaneously in all Netflix territories and will have "an updated format" that still includes late-night standards like topical entertainment, cultural issues, and guest interviews.

Netflix's goal to transform from its original DVD-by-mail roots to a streaming-video leader to, ultimately, the world's premiere online television network has resulted in its campaign to focus on original content. The push, which started with television series like "House of Cards" and "Lilyhammer," has morphed to include various formats of TV -- including stand-up specials, documentaries, and kids-geared series as well as "prime time" types of shows. But, so far, Netflix has remained firmly identifiable as a library of on-demand video, a place where everything is available at once in a big, bingeable bunch.

The category of a late-night talk show, with its topical subject matter and celebrity appearances premised on the star having a particular, time-sensitive project to plug, shifts Netflix into a territory more akin to a typical TV network. It gives the service some programming that needs to be seen soon to be most relevant and is best released in regular increments. Moving into live programming is something that Netflix has long stated is outside its main objectives.

"Netflix is looking forward to reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation, starting with the late night part," Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a release. A Netflix spokeswoman said because the show is planned for 2016, the participants have some time to figure out its cadence.

Before the talk show debuts, Netflix will premiere a one-hour stand-up comedy performance of Handler based on her tour, "Uganda Be Kidding Me." It will be available on the service October 10, after being filmed Friday in Chicago. Next year, Handler will make four "docu-comedy specials" for Netflix "featuring her efforts to gain a better understanding on a variety of subjects ranging from NASCAR to politics and from Silicon Valley to the NBA draft," the company said.

Netflix shares were down $3.76, or less than one percentage point, at $444.92 in recent trading.