The comedy lineup expands on Netflix

New York Times News ServiceSeptember 4, 2013 

South Beach Comedy Festival

An exclusive showing of Aziz Ansari’s “Buried Alive” special will debut on Netflix Nov. 1.

MITCHELL ZACHS — AP

When you’re Aziz Ansari, people come up to you pretty frequently and say they enjoyed your stand-up specials. The first one had its premiere on Comedy Central in 2010; the second had its debut as a $5 Internet download in 2012. And when you’re Ansari, you can’t help noticing what people say next.

“They always mention that they watched it on Netflix,” said Ansari, 30, the comedian best known as a creator of the MTV sketch-comedy series “Human Giant” and a star of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”

For his third stand-up special, Ansari is moving Netflix to the front of the line. His show “Buried Alive,” based on his tour of the same name, will make its Netflix debut Nov. 1. It will be the biggest stand-up special distributed by Netflix to date, in much the same way that “House of Cards” was that streaming service’s first high-profile original drama.

There’s more comedy coming, the company says, as it opens another front of competition with HBO. In announcing the expansion into comedy specials and feature documentaries last month, the Netflix chief executive, Reed Hastings, said the service had “become a big destination for fans of these much loved and often under-distributed genres.”

Ansari’s conversations with his fans bolster Hastings’ assertion. Netflix “seems like it’s the closest delivery service of media we have that actually matches up to our preferences and expectations,” he said in a telephone interview during a break from “Parks and Recreation” production. (Lately he has been binge-viewing the ABC drama “Scandal” through Netflix.)

Ansari said he was amused when a fan asked him on Twitter: “When are you going to put out another stand-up special on Netflix? I need more free stand-up.” Netflix, of course, costs $8 a month.

“It’s so convenient, you don’t even think about the fact that you’re paying for it,” Ansari said.

Netflix’s forays into licensing the first-run rights to television shows, much as a TV network does, are predicated on the belief that people are more likely to keep paying if the service has exclusive programming. In June, the service presented a comedy special by John Hodgman, and last week it presented the premiere of one by Mike Birbiglia, who wrote positively on Twitter of Netflix’s international reach: “I signed a crazy contract that I think included other planets.”

Netflix has comedy specials by Marc Maron and Kathleen Madigan in the works. Ansari’s show is unlike those before it, a Netflix spokeswoman said, because the company intends to put a significant promotional campaign behind “Buried Alive,” billing it as original programming on par with “Arrested Development” or “Orange Is the New Black.”

“We’ve been working to make Netflix a great home for comedians to do their best work and to support their live performance careers, and having Aziz debut his new show with us is a validation of that strategy,” Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix, said in an email.

Ansari plans to release “Buried Alive” as a $5 download, but only after the Netflix premiere.

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