Netflix (s NFLX) continues to invest in content that will help it stand out from the growing crowd of streaming video services and traditional cable TV networks. The latest evidence is a deal that will bring Norwegian-produced mobster TV show Lilyhammer to its original programming lineup. Speaking at the MIPCOM conference in Cannes, France, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced the deal as part of a keynote discussion with Miramax CEO Mike Lang Monday.
Lilyhammer stars E Street band rocker Steven Van Zandt playing a mobster who agrees to move to Norway as part of a stint in the Witness Protection Program. The casting is reminiscent of Van Zandt’s last major TV role, in which he starred as Tony Soprano’s right hand man Silvio Dante on The Sopranos.
Lilyhammer was produced by Rubicon Tv AS for NRK Broadcasting in association with SevenOne International, but it will get its U.S., Canada and Latin America premiere on Netflix. The show’s dialogue is a mix of Norwegian and English, with subtitles to fill in for the other language, depending on where it’s shown.
The Lilyhammer deal adds to the amount of exclusive programming Netflix has invested in recently to differentiate it from other streaming services and cable networks. Earlier this year, Netflix announced an exclusive deal to bring the Kevin Spacey-David Fincher project House of Cards online to its streaming customers, committing to an unprecedented two seasons of the show. In doing so, it beat out traditional cable networks like HBO (s TWX) or Showtime. (s CBS)
Adding more original and exclusive content is one way Netflix is trying to appease a user base angered by a series of missteps which have lowered its customer satisfaction rating pretty dramatically. The bad news for Netflix began in July, when the company announced a change to its pricing that split its DVD and streaming plans and increased costs by as much as 60 percent for users who subscribed to both. Later, Netflix announced that it was separating the businesses altogether and rebranding its DVD-by-mail service Qwikster, which was also met with wide-scale disapproval.
Signing exclusive deals could also help replace some content that will disappear once Starz (s LSTZA) pulls its TV shows and movies from the streaming service early next year. In addition to Lilyhammer and House of Cards, Netflix has committed to an exclusive deal with Dreamworks Animation to license its movies in the pay TV window when they become available in 2013.