Netflix is charting its own path to Archie Comics.
The streaming giant has handed out a sizable two-season, 20-episode straight-to-series order for an untitled Sabrina drama based on the Archie Comics graphic novel The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, picking up the intended Riverdale companion series from The CW.
Sabrina was put in development at younger-skewing broadcaster The CW in September. A casting search to play the reimagined teenage witch began almost immediately. Sources note that The CW and producers Warner Bros. Television had a list of actresses they eyed for the role. That is being revisited given the large commitment and move to Netflix.
Sabrina reimagines the origin and adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a dark coming-of-age tale that traffics in horror, the occult and witchcraft. It's described as in the vein of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist and finds Sabrina wrestling to reconcile her dual nature as a half-witch, half-mortal while fighting the evil forces that threaten her, her family and the daylight world humans inhabit.
Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who also serves as chief creative officer of Archie Comics, penned the script. Sabrina was originally eyed as a potential companion series for Riverdale to air in the 2018-19 TV broadcast season. Aguirre-Sacasa will direct, and executive produce alongside Riverdale collaborators Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater and Lee Toland Krieger. The drama hails from Warner Bros. Television-based Berlanti Productions.
Sources say the Sabrina order is for two, 10-episode seasons that would shoot back to back with the first batch filming from February to June and second from June to October. The writers room opens Monday. A premiere date has not been determined and it's unclear how the 20 episodes will be divided in terms of rollout.
That Netflix would invest so heavily in Sabrina should come as little surprise. The streaming giant has SVOD rights to Riverdale, the noir teen drama about Archie (K.J. Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes), and began streaming all 13 episodes of the first season after their run on The CW. Riverdale — which was originally developed for Fox before moving to The CW — became a summer breakout for Netflix, which in turn helped to boost the sophomore season of the show in the fall. Riverdale's Oct. 11 season two debut grew a whopping 60 percent from its midseason series debut nine months prior, adding to the evidence of the impact SVOD deals have on linear viewership.
"Probably more people watched it on Netflix thinking it was a Netflix show," The CW executive vp marketing and digital Rick Haskins told THR in October. "Our real challenge was taking those viewers and moving them over to The CW."
Sabrina is the first offshoot to come from Aguirre-Sacasa's Archie Comics universe. Ahead of Riverdale's debut, the executive said he envisioned a larger world to come out of Archie's vast mythology. "One of the nice things about me being a part of Archie Comics is having access to a library of 4,000 to 5,000 characters," he said. "Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Josie and the Pussycats … those are characters who can very easily support their own show. But we [also] have superheroes. So in success, yes, the goal is to expand that way."
The massive world that could stem from Sabrina and the Archie world also could be appealing to Netflix. While Disney has already pulled Marvel feature films from the streamer, Netflix remains home to a suite of Marvel dramas — The Punisher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and The Defenders — with many industry observers anticipating that those series could move to the studio's forthcoming SVOD stand-alone service.
With the Sabrina order, meanwhile, Berlanti has now made history with the most scripted series currently in the works (11). They are: The CW's Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and Riverdale; ABC's upcoming magic drama Deception; NBC's Blindspot; Lifetime's straight-to-series thriller You; and DC's forthcoming digital SVOD live-action drama Titans.
Sabrina becomes the latest series to be developed for The CW but move to Netflix. Debby Ryan starrer Insatiable moved to the streamer in June after narrowly missing a series pickup at The CW.