How Netflix's 'Ultimate Beastmaster' Will Change Global Reality TV

Robert Voets/Netflix
'Ultimate Beastmaster'

The streaming service's first competition series, which features contestants tackling a 600-foot-long obstacle course, will be released in six different versions worldwide tailored to local audiences.

The contestants on Netflix's first reality competition show, Ultimate Beastmaster, are fighting to conquer a 600-foot-long obstacle course called "The Beast." But the real test will be whether the series can help the streamer achieve international dominance.

When Beastmaster premieres Feb. 24, Netflix will release six different versions of the show tailored to local audiences in the U.S., Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Germany and Japan. Viewers will watch the same set of competitors, but each version will highlight local contestants with commentary from local hosts. (Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews and Fox Sports host Charissa Thompson guide viewers through the U.S. version.) "I believe this will be a game-changer within the industry," says David Broome, who is producing alongside Sylvester Stallone. "It's not just that it's the first reality competition for Netflix, this is a reality competition filmed at a scope, scale and creative design that is tailor-made for a global platform like Netflix." 

Beastmaster would not have been possible at Netflix just a few years ago. After an international rollout that began in 2010 with a move into Canada, Netflix became widely available globally in January 2016 with an expansion into 130 new territories.

With more than half of its 93.8 million subscribers coming from the United States, the pressure is on for Netflix to grow its audience abroad. Local programming, which Netflix has begun to roll out on the scripted side in countries including Brazil, is key to that effort. "As Netflix has expanded into over 190 countries, we've seen that people are looking to engage with others around the world while also connecting with something that feels personal and close to home," says content chief Ted Sarandos.

Netflix's push to dominate new international markets comes as it faces increased competition abroad, not just from local TV networks and streamers but also rival Amazon, which in December launched a version of its video service in more than 200 countries. Localized shows like Beastmaster are designed to help give Netflix a leg up against such efforts.

For Broome, a reality TV veteran who executive produced The Biggest Loser for 11 years, it's about advancing the reality genre, which continues to be dominated by long-running hits like Survivor and The Voice. He calls the show a "cinematic" take on the reality genre. 

Unlike network reality shows, however, Beastmaster will be released all at once in standard Netflix fashion. Broome says production adjusted to the distribution, making the competition more about accumulating points than racing against a clock and focusing more on backstory. "Every one of these episodes will just feel like its own journey," he says. 

Despite the scale of the show — 108 competitors, 60 different episodes — Broome says the budget is in line with network reality series. The first season filmed in Santa Clarita, Calif., over eight nights. And a second season, with a new set of undisclosed countries, has already been ordered and shot. "That just doesn't happen in our industry," he says of the early second-season renewal. "This is the beauty of Netflix."

But will audiences in Japan and Germany and Brazil get hooked? MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson says, "The bigger and more global that Netflix makes these shows, the more it feels like a blockbuster film in success."

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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