Netflix Signs Comedian Chelsea Handler to ‘Revolutionize’ TV Talk Show Format

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The TV late-night talk show wars are about to get another combatant. Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) announced Thursday morning that it has signed a deal with comedian and author Chelsea Handler to create an “all-new talk show” for the streaming video company that now calls itself the “worlds [sic] leading Internet TV Network.” Remember when Amazon billed itself as “earth’s biggest bookstore?”

Handler is currently the host of the E! network’s “Chelsea Lately” show and her contract with that network expires in late August. A one-hour stand-up comedy special is scheduled for October 10 and will be her first show for Netflix. The company said Handler will create four new docu-comedy specials exclusively for Netflix in 2015 and that the new late night show will debut early in 2016.

Among the TV networks the late night show is more about bragging rights than anything. The programs have tried to attract younger viewers (the 18 to 49 demographic) with mixed success. The ratings leader as of mid-May was “The Tonight Show” from NBC and Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) with a weekly average audience of 3.33 million viewers ages 18 to 49. Top prime time shows like “America’s Got Talent” boast more than 10 million viewers.

Netflix’s chief content officer said:

The Internet has disrupted many of the conventions of traditional television and together with Chelsea Handler, Netflix is looking forward to reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation, starting with the late night part….

Will a late night show available only through an over-the-top streaming service outperform its broadcast network competitors? We have to wait at least 18 months to get an answer to that question, and by then a company other than Netflix may have answered it.

Netflix stock traded down about 1% in the noon hour on Thursday, at $444.26 in a 52-week range of $207.56 to $458.00.

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