Netflix Greenlights ‘Stranger Things’ Spinoff Series to Help Build a Franchise

LOS ANGELES, July 6 (Reuters) – Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) said on Wednesday it is developing a spin-off of the sci-fi series “Stranger Things” as the streaming service strives to transform its biggest hit in English in a broad entertainment franchise.

The new series will be based on an original idea by Matt and Ross Duffer, the twins who created “Stranger Things,” Netflix said in a statement. No story or character details were provided.

Netflix also announced a play set in the world of “Stranger Things.”

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The supernatural thriller starring Winona Ryder and David Harbor set viewing records for Netflix, overtaking Regency-era drama “Bridgerton” as the company’s most-watched English-language show.

“Stranger Things” resonated with the cultural zeitgeist when it debuted in 2016 and transformed Millie Bobby Brown, then 12, into a global star. The most recent season propelled Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” to the top of the iTunes and Spotify charts 37 years after its original release.

The fourth season wrapped up with the final two episodes last week, briefly crashing the Netflix app as fans rushed to see it. The series has logged 1.15 billion hours of viewing on Netflix, trailing South Korean drama “Squid Game” alone.

“One of the reasons ‘Stranger Things’ really broke out the way it did is that there’s a universality at the center of it,” said Matthew Thunell, vice -president of Netflix who first read the script and defended the series. . “It’s really about the strength of friendship, how friendship overcomes evil.”

The series is the first Netflix has sought to develop as a mainstream entertainment franchise, whose characters and stories span across film, television, games and consumer products. Its popularity took Netflix by surprise – “we could never have frankly predicted what ‘Stranger Things’ became,” Thunell said.

As the show’s audience expanded beyond so-called genre nerds, or sci-fi fans, to include adults captivated by its 1980s pop culture references, Netflix began considering ways to expand the story through spinoffs and merchandise.

This has resulted in a range of “Stranger Things” tie-ins that include a frozen pineapple-jalapeno Surfer Boy pizza at Walmart and a Magic 8 ball toy from Hasbro. Fans were also able to participate in simulated sleep studies at a Hawkins National Laboratory attraction in New York, San Francisco and London.

“We’re starting from scratch, so that gives us a lot of freedom to innovate and try new things,” said Josh Simon, vice president of consumer products at Netflix.

The new series is part of a production deal with the Duffers, who will also be developing a live-action TV adaptation of the Japanese manga and “Death Note” anime series, among other projects.

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Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski; Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Richard Chang

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James C. Tibbs