COM­EDY IS SE­RI­OUS BUSI­NESS FOR NET­FLIX

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY CALENDAR - — Nar­dine Saad

As Jerry Se­in­feld might say, what is it with all th­ese com­edy spe­cials?

While HBO once stood as the holy grail for stand-up com­edy, with Com­edy Cen­tral an­gling to make in­roads, Net­flix has ar­guably ousted the ca­ble chan­nels as the go-to des­ti­na­tion.

Not that HBO should be com­pletely dis­counted — it did, af­ter all, re­cently se­cure Jon Stew­art as a ma­jor head­liner. Net­flix’s ap­proach is slightly dif­fer­ent in that it’s mix­ing veteran comics with new­com­ers. And, it should be noted, those vets are earn­ing small for­tunes with th­ese deals.

The dig­i­tal plat­form has signed numer­ous high-pro­file co­me­di­ans in re­cent months: Jerry Se­in­feld, Chris Rock, Dave Chap­pelle, Amy Schumer, Louis C.K and oth­ers.

Se­in­feld re­port­edly re­ceived $100 mil­lion for two new spe­cials plus episodes of his Web se­ries “Co­me­di­ans in Cars Get­ting Cof­fee.” Those lu­cra­tive deals are great for road-weary comics to reach a wider au­di­ence — and pretty great for the “Net­flix-and-chill” couch potato in many of us.

A dou­ble-edged sword per­haps?

With Net­flix sink­ing loads of cash into th­ese agree­ments, the com­pany could be con­tribut­ing to its own mount­ing $20-bil­lion debt. Though it no­to­ri­ously doesn’t dis­close num­bers, the stream­ing gi­ant said that Chap­pelle’s shows were its most-watched spe­cials ever.

In­ci­den­tally, Casey Bloys, HBO’s pres­i­dent of pro­gram­ming, said at a re­cent Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics Assn. event that the view­ing cat­e­gory ac­counts for “less than 1 per­cent of us­age on [HBO] Go and Now,” ac­cord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter. So HBO will wait out the com­edy boom un­til prices drop.

Mean­while, Louis C.K. and Sarah Sil­ver­man’s stand-up spe­cials racked up more Prime­time Emmy Award nom­i­na­tions this month — for va­ri­ety spe­cial and writ­ing for a va­ri­ety spe­cial — with their shows adding to Net­flix’s im­pres­sive Emmy tally.

Spe­cials from Jim Gaf­fi­gan and Kevin Hart are al­ready avail­able on Net­flix’s menu, which is packed with fare from newer comics. And in June Net­flix de­buted “The Standups” se­ries fea­tur­ing sev­eral fresh faces.

The ser­vice lured an­other com­edy veteran with for­mer “Late Show” host David Let­ter­man mak­ing a deal to front a news­magazine se­ries. It’s not quite stand-up, but it’s an­other big-name get for the Net­flix.

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