6:40am PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
Why Netflix Launched a 'Stranger Things' Talk Show
What should a fan-oriented, spoiler-heavy talk show look like on Netflix? The streaming giant is embarking on a seven-episode experiment with Beyond Stranger Things, featuring the creators and stars delving deeper into the themes of the sci-fi phenomenon.
The chat show, which launched Oct. 27, comes months after the platform first tested out the concept with a 30-minute 13 Reasons Why postseason featurette on suicide prevention. That one-off special, Beyond the Reasons, was a success by the streamer's (elusive) standards, says Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
While aftershows have traditionally been created for ad-driven networks to own and profit from the conversation around a hot property (think: The Walking Dead's Talking Dead and Better Call Saul's Talking Saul), Netflix also is looking for ways to increase engagement for its marquee shows.
"With the level of fandom on Stranger Things, it's a nice way of extending the series and giving people that extra level of connection with the show when they're all done but want more," says Sarandos of the Stranger Things aftershow, made by AMC's Talking Dead producers Embassy Row. (The Walking Dead talk show returned on Oct. 29 with 5 million total viewers, which outrates most cable scripted series.)
It took a bit of convincing to get Matt and Ross Duffer to participate in Beyond Stranger Things, however, as they're not used to being the ones on camera. But the fact that writer-actor Jim Rash was selected to host helped get the brothers on board. "It went from me being wary about it to, 'This is actually a lot of fun,'" says Matt Duffer, who appears with his brother and executive producer Shawn Levy in the series.
The episodes, which range from 15 to 25 minutes, are available to watch on the platform anytime, but they're meant to be consumed after viewers complete the entire season to avoid spoilers. "We didn't want to interrupt the show with the aftershow," says Sarandos of the rollout plan, which keeps Beyond from autoplaying until after the season two finale. Levy adds that producers never seriously considered sticking the aftershow between episodes of the drama, reiterating that it wouldn't fit with a binge-friendly model: “We knew early on that that’s not the way people consume Netflix and it’s definitely not the way people consume Stranger Things.”
Sarandos is open to the idea of aftershows to other original series, too. The exec says, "I think [it'd work for] shows like The OA that are super layered, where people can really tear apart what they think they just saw. And Black Mirror would be fun, too."
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.