12:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Netflix Enters Romance Space With Pair of Series Pickups
Netflix is setting its sights on Hallmark-style programming.
The streaming giant has handed out straight-to-series orders for two female-led soapy romance dramas based on book series from a pair of the genre’s top authors. Picked up with 10-episode series orders are Virgin River, based on Robyn Carr’s book series, and Sweet Magnolias, based on the series from Sherryl Woods.
The push is part of what sources describe an effort to enter the Hallmark-type programming scripted space of soapy romance dramas, with Netflix vp content Bela Bajaria leading the charge.
Virgin River is described as a contemporary romance based on Carr’s best-selling 20-book series. Collectively, the titles have sold more than 13 million copies. The series revolves around Melinda Monroe, who answers an ad to work as a nurse practitioner in the remote California town of Virgin River, thinking it will be the perfect place to start over and leave painful memories behind. She soon discovers that small-town living isn’t as simple as she expected as she is forced to heal herself before she can make Virgin River her home.
Sue Tenney, whose credits include Hallmark’s Good Witch and Cedar Cove series, will serve as showrunner and executive produce alongside Reel World Management’s Roma Roth and Chris Perry. Production on the series is set to begin this year. A premiere date has not been determined.
Sweet Magnolias, meanwhile, is based on Woods’ 11-book series that launched in 2007 with Stealing Home. The 10-episode drama centers on three South Carolina women, best friends since high school, as they shepherd each other through the complexities of romance, career and family. Sheryl J. Anderson (Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart, A Summer to Remember) will serve as showrunner and exec produce alongside Daniel L. Paulson.
The news arrives as Netflix continues to shake up the industry one genre at a time. After entering the scripted originals space with House of Cards, the streamer aggressively pursued (and paid handsomely) for stand-up comedy specials, animation and now romance dramas as it looks to become a one-stop shop in multiple genres.