Sitcom Is the New Drama at Netflix

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Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP"Full House" stars Candace Cameron Bure, left, and Jodie Sweetin are reuniting for "Fuller House."
Netflix (NFLX) isn't afraid of having a laugh at its own expense. The leading premium video service continues to shell out more money for original comedic content. Its latest sitcom deal is for "Fuller House," a spinoff of the iconic "Full House" series.

Candace Cameron-Bure, Jodie Sweetin, and Andrea Barber are set to reprise their roles as the two older Tanner sisters and D.J. Tanner's friend Kimmy. John Stamos will return, this time as the show's producer and occasionally going before the camera as Uncle Jesse.

Netflix has ordered a 13-episode season of the show that will hit the streaming platform exclusively come 2016. It's not the first time that Netflix has breathed new life into a proven franchise. "Arrested Development" fans clamoring for a return of the edgy show were rewarded two years ago when a fourth season was bankrolled by Netflix.

Bringing back old shows is just good business. They have established audiences that are familiar with the characters. Netflix is also in a unique position since it has more than a decade of rental and review histories. It knows the shows that folks watch through its DVD rental platform. It knows when folks who are actually still attached to the shows start letter-writing campaigns to revive canceled programs.

Laugh It Off

Diving into half-hour situation comedies is still a relatively new sport for Netflix. Its first foray into paying up for proprietary content was serialized drama "Lilyhammer" in 2012. It followed that up with "House of Cards" in early 2013.

The success of "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" has made Netflix the streaming service of choice, offering up award-winning content that viewers can't catch anywhere else. It's working: Netflix had 62.3 million streaming subscribers worldwide at the end of March, and it sees that number bumping up to 64.8 million by the end of June.

Netflix has also made "binge viewing" a popular pastime, and while it's been addictive as serialized dramas play out episode by episode, there's no reason it can't also work for sitcoms. Die-hard "Arrested Development" fans breezed through the fourth season's 15 episodes when it premiered on Netflix during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend.

Netflix has started to turn its attention to comedies since its success with the "Arrested Development" revival. This year alone we saw the Tina Fey-backed "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" spring up on Netflix, and "Grace and Frankie," starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, starts today.

Another big bet on comedy will materialize next year when former E! night show star Chelsea Handler debuts her new talk show, pushing Netflix into the realm of live television given the timely nature of similar late-night shows.

Netflix isn't afraid to make big bets on loading up its digital catalog: It had a record $9.8 billion in streaming content obligations on its books at the end of this year's first quarter. It will continue to invest in serialized dramas, of course, but don't be surprised if Netflix continues to try to tickle your funny bone along the way.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.​​​
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