E Street Band guitarist and “The Sopranos” actor Steven Van Zandt is starring in Netflix new original series, “Lilyhammer.” Van Zandt, who also co-wrote and executive produced the hour-long drama, will star as Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, a mobster who enters federal witness protection after testifying against his boss. Frank is relocated from New York to Lillehammer—or as he calls it “Lilyhammer”—the Norwegian town that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics, to begin his new life.
The series, set to launch 2/6, is the first of five originals Netflix is developing as exclusive content for its 23.5 million streaming subscribers. The company is betting its future on streaming original content after losing nearly 2.8 million DVD-by-mail subscribers during Q4 2011. However, Netflix foreign streaming subscribers grew about 27% to nearly 1.9 million in Q4.
Bucking the one episode-per-week model, the eight-episode first season of “Lilyhammer” will be instantly available on Netflix in the U.S., Canada and Latin America on its 2/6 launch.
“Our core proposition is about choice, and the ultimate choice is not just how and where but when our subscribers want to watch,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos told WSJ. “They can watch it all in a weekend.”
Netflix also landed “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, who also helmed “Fight Club” and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” as well as a new fourth season of Twentieth Century Fox’s “Arrested Development,” both of which are slated for release in 2013.
“Lilyhammer” has already garnered early success. Approximately one in five Norwegians watched the first episode, which aired last week on NRK1, a European broadcasting channel. It also received the highest ratings so far for a Norwegian-made drama series, according to distribution house SevenOne International.
“I’m imagining this moment as the new golden era of television with cross-cultural collaborations like this at the forefront,” said Van Zandt, who initially approached Sarandos with the project.
With the exception of Mr. Van Zandt’s character, who speaks English throughout, the show is shot in Norwegian with English subtitles. Like many Netflix offerings, both the subtitles and the dubbing can be changed into multiple languages.