Netflix 'buys 50 literary projects in last year'

Netflix 'buys 50 literary projects in last year'

Netflix is reportedly on a book-buying spree, with around 50 literary works being turned into series projects.

The company is ramping up its book-to-screen deals as it grows its global subscriber base of 139 million, according to Publishers Weekly. Over the past year the world's largest online video streaming service has apparently been developing screen adaptations of dozens of novels, series, short story collections, and graphic novels. Around 50 of these are being turned into series projects, while the California-based company has announced plans to adapt only a handful into feature films.

Many of the deals originate with Maria Campbell Literary Associates UK Ltd in London and Maria B Campbell Associates Inc in New York, appointed as Netflix’s exclusive global literary scouts in March 2017, with Netflix executives regularly attending global publishing events such as the London Book Fair (LBF).

Matt Thunell, v-p of original series at Netflix, told PW of the relationship with the Maria Campbell offices: “I’m on the phone with them every week, talking about what’s going on in New York, what’s new, and about library properties as well.

“The reason I love books—especially a book-to-series translation—is that they often provide this incredible landscape, mythology, and opportunity for worldbuilding that’s really hard to come by in the everyday pitches I’m hearing.”

The relationship between Netflix and the scouts is also apparently helping build stronger relationships with publishers with the company coordinating release schedules with Simon & Schuster US.

“Netflix executives can discuss the books in-depth,” said New Leaf Literary founder Joanna Volpe told PW. “That’s why we are seeing such great adaptations: because they are reading it and getting to the heart of the books.”

Meanwhile the recently announced adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (Penguin) was cited as an example of how increasingly “authentic” foreign-language projects are given airtime, according to Kelly Luegenbiehl, v.p. of creative, international originals at Netflix. As part of the deal, the company agreed to shoot the series in Spanish and film in Márquez’s native Colombia.

Luegenbiehl told PW: “In the past, the prevailing wisdom would have been to have everyone speak English in order to make it a more global show.

"We’ll continue to look to books to find new voices, especially as we’re expanding into the African continent. There’s a lot of great literature there. We’re really actively looking to tap into some stories there that perhaps didn’t have the right platform to be told on a global scale before.”

Other upcoming Netflix originals include the “Shadow and Bone" eight-episode series, inspired by US author Leigh Bardugo’s "Grishaverse" books, as announced in January, and an animated series of Roald Dahl stories, in partnerships with the Roald Dahl Story Company, with production is slated for this year. 

This report echoes previous reports of how companies such as Netflix are eager for content from the publishing industry. Katie McCalmont, of the London-headquartered Maria Campbell office, spoke of how the new-media buyers had gone up “big time”, in tandem with “a blurring of boundaries” between different media, when she spoke with The Bookseller ahead of LBF in 2017. She said at the time that the climate was “a huge opportunity” for publishers and agents.