Netflix gets its own 'Downton Abbey' with a period drama about the British Monarchy

'The Crown' tells the story of a young Queen Elizabeth II, set against the collapse of the British Empire

Netflix has just announced a massive global expansion of its service, along with two new shows coming this year including a period drama about Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

The other original Netflix series will be "The Get Down," from director Baz Luhrmann, which tells the story of "when a crime-ridden city" -- New York -- "gave way to the birth of disco, graffiti and hip hop."

Netflix CEO Netflix/IDGNS

Reed Hastings shared growth figures for netflix over the years

CEO Reed Hastings announced the shows in a talk at CES Wednesday morning. The streaming company hopes to repeat the success of other original Netflix series like "House of Cards" and "Narcos," about the Colombian drug cartels.

The show about the British monarchy, called "The Crown," is set in the 1950s and charts the collapse of the British Empire and the creation of modern Britain. It stars Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth and Matt Smith, of "Doctor Who" fame, as her husband Prince Philip.

Period dramas have played well on TV lately and Netflix will be hoping to capitalize on the popularity of PBS's "Downton Abbey," which is available on DVD from Netflix but not streamed.

The new shows could play to a far bigger audience than Netflix has today. 

"While you've been listening to me talk, the Netflix service has gone live in nearly every country of the world except China, where we hope to be in the future," Hastings said.

The Netflix juggernaut now reaches 130 countries, he said, with additions like India, Russia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Korea, Turkey, Nigeria and Singapore. 

Netflix is in 70 million homes globally, he said, and people watched 12 billion hours of content in the last quarter of 2015, up from 8.25 billion a year earlier.

He offered a succinct reason why Netflix is so popular compared to "linear TV" -- "You don’t have to sit through commercials, or be at the mercy of an 8 p.m. tune-in time."

Another Netflix executive slammed what he called a “discriminatory patchwork of global content availability” offered by other TV services, though that seemed a bit rich since Netflix cut out the trailers of its new shows from its livestream of the CES event, showing them only to those present in the audience.

Netflix CES keynote Netflix/IDGNS

Actors Will Arnett, Krysten Ritter, Wagner Moura and Chelsea Handler join Netflix on stage

Hastings was joined by some of its stars including Wagner Moura of "Narcos" and Chelsea Handler, who provided some off-color humor not often seen at the buttoned-down trade show.

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James Niccolai

IDG News Service
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