Netflix is poised to enter the TV news business

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Lord [Andrew] Adonis, a former U.K. cabinet minister and academic, is one of the most vociferous, high-profile opponents of Brexit. Recently, he took issue on Twitter with the coverage from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) of Britain’s protracted departure from the European Union and pleaded for “Netflix [to] set up a sharp, balanced news service.”

While Netflix NFLX, -1.69%  won’t be setting up a news service anytime soon, the streaming service is in the early stages of developing what it hopes will be a “sharp, balanced” news show.

A TV executive, who recently collaborated with Netflix on a documentary series, said the streaming giant is planning a weekly news magazine show to rival longstanding network shows CBS’s ”60 Minutes” and ABC’s “20/20.”

“Netflix have spotted a hole in the market for a current affairs TV show encompassing both sides of the political divide and are seeking to fill it,” said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity. Netflix didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The streaming giant initially eschewed news coverage in favor of commissioning drama, comedy and documentaries. But lately it has been on a current affairs talk show-buying frenzy, signing up comedians David Letterman, Joel McHale, Hasan Minhaj, Michelle Wolf and Norm MacDonald to present programs that will be significantly devoted to satirizing the news.

But Netflix is also on the lookout for less irreverent and comedic takes on the news. Last week, it was revealed they were reportedly in advanced negotiations with former President Barack Obama to produce a series of high-profile shows.

Netflix is expected to spend roughly $8 billion on content in 2018 to fund 700 shows and films, rising to $12.2 billion in 2020. While news magazine shows have been eclipsed by reality TV in recent years, with the news cycle becoming ever more partisan and frenzied under President Trump, the streaming service hopes they can revive the genre.

“Netflix are proceeding with caution over this because they’re well aware that most new current affairs shows underwhelm and are expensive,” added the source. “They want to make their show economically viable without compromising the production costs and newsgathering operation.”

Netflix wouldn’t comment on its plans for a news magazine show. Heywood Gould, a writer and director who worked with TV news talk show host and producer David Susskind, said he wasn’t surprised at the development. “Netflix must be looking around at the TV news competition and thinking, ‘We should be in this too,’” he said. “So many news shows consist of talking heads rehashing opinions with minimal crews operating in the field. So there’s no reason why Netflix couldn’t do a better reporting job than how CNN is doing at the moment,” he said.

Others were less optimistic. “I would be surprised if Netflix were to get into news near or medium term,” said Pivotal Research analyst Jeff Wlodarczak. “All of their content generally has durability — you can watch in months or years later and it is still interesting. News, on the other hand, is topical and short-lived. But I can see them doing something similar to ‘The Daily Show.’”

Former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather said, “Netflix has been so successful that almost nothing is too expensive for them. It wouldn’t surprise me if it came to that. But I say this to you with a smile — if they get interested in doing one, I’m available.”

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