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Netflix hires its own David Letterman: Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler signed a deal to become a talk show host on Netflix.Chelsea Handler signed a deal to become a talk show host on Netflix.
Chelsea Handler signed a deal to become a talk show host on Netflix.

Netflix is hoping the success it has found producing its own original comedy and drama show can carry over into a new format: the late-night talk show.

The company behind House of Cards and Orange is the New Black said Thursday it is turning to comedian and author Chelsea Handler to host a new talk show similar to “Chelsea Lately,” the program she currently hosts on the E! cable network. Handler, who is set to leave her current set-up at the end of this summer, will kick off the new online show in early 2016 with “an updated format that still encompasses Chelsea’’s unfiltered opinions on topical entertainment and cultural issues, as well as her signature guest interviews,” Netflix said in its announcement.

The deal is an example of how Netflix, once just a DVD rental company, is increasingly a threat to broadcast and cable television. It’s growing stable of original shows competes for viewers against the major networks and paid cable channels.

The deal also gives Handler her own stand-up comedy special, which will debut online on October 10, as well as a four-part series of “docu-comedy” specials that will premiere in 2015 and 2016. The latter specials will follow Handler as she learns about subjects ranging from Silicon Valley’s tech scene to NASCAR.

““The Internet has disrupted many of the conventions of traditional television and, together with Chelsea Handler, Netflix is looking forward to reimagining the late-night talk show for the on-demand generation, starting with the late-night part,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement.

There had been rumors for some time that Handler would make the jump from cable to network television, especially after David Letterman announced earlier this year that he would relinquish his late-night hosting duties on CBS. That gig eventually went to Stephen Colbert, but Handler’s name was also floated as a potential option for the talk show slot following that program, a spot currently occupied by soon-to-retire Craig Ferguson.

“If I was going to continue working in this industry, I knew I had to do something outside the box to keep myself interested,” Handler said in a statement. “I wanted to sit with the cool kids at lunch so I approached Netflix to make sure they were as cool as I thought they were, and when I confirmed my suspicions, like with any other future lover, I made my move.”

While Netflix (NFLX) is claiming it will “revolutionize the talk show,” the move into a new format is already getting a mixed reception. Some are lauding the company for tapping into the burgeoning market for online comedy shows, while others question how late-night talk shows, which generally rely on loads of topical humor and guests pitching time-specific projects, can possibly draw a consistent on-demand audience.

Netflix’s other original series – which garnered the company 14 Emmy nominations last fall – usually release an entire season’s worth of episodes at once, supporting binge-watching, rather than airing regular installments like a typical talk show.