Netflix released a new original series, Lilyhammer, Monday, starring former The Sopranos star and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt. Although the Norwegian-American series was produced by Rubicon TV AS, a Norwegian production company, Netflix co-produced and financed much of the show, signaling a remarkable new business direction for the company.
Lilyhammer tells the gripping story of former New York mobster Frank The Fixer Tagliano, played by Steven Van Zandt, who enters the federal witness protection program after giving away key information on his boss.
After seeing the small idyllic town in the 1994 Winter Olympics, Tagliano moves to Lillehammer, Norway, which he calls Lilyhammer. While Tagliano thinks the move to Norway will include clean air, fresh white snow and gorgeous broads, the reality turns out to be quite different.
The Norwegian-American series has already become extremely popular in Norway, where 20 percent of the nation's population reportedly watches episodes weekly.
Lilyhammer debuts in the United States, Latin America and Canada on Netflix on Monday with the eight first episodes of the series available through Netflix's instant streaming option. The company's decision both to feature an original series and to release eight episodes at once shows a shift in Netflix's business plans for the future.
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Over the past few years, Netflix has made a remarkable shift away from movies and towards television shows accessible through online streaming in an effort to court viewers looking to dig in to shows. Gossip Girl, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and 24 are all popular, addictive series offered by the company online in response to viewers who will sit for hours watching episode after episode.
The LA Times reports that more than 60% of the two billion hours of streamed content that Netflix subscribers watched online in the fourth quarter of 2011 came from television shows, a remarkable shift from past habits.
It's been a fundamental shift in our business, but it wasn't by design, Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, told the LA Times. The rise of TV viewing has happened in a really organic way.
Netflix's decision to release Lilyhammer also indicates the company has future interest in offering original content to viewers via online streaming. The LA Times reports the company also plans to host a unique political drama starring Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, as well as new episodes of the popular Arrested Development.
This will be the first of many brand new, original and exclusive series to debut on Netflix. We will have more news on those shows as they get ready to premiere, Sarandos wrote on the company's blog.
Watch the Lilyhammer trailer here: