EXCLUSIVE: Streaming video/DVD-by-mail giant Netflix continues its quest to become an original programming player. Following its eye-popping 26-episode straight-to-series deal with MRC for the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey drama House Of Cards, I hear the the Web subscription company is in negotiations with Lionsgate TV for a 13-episode, straight-to-series order to a comedy series from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. Details are sketchy as talks are still ongoing but word is that the the project revolves around women in prison and is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison. The book chronicles nonprofit communications executive Kerman’s year-long stint at the minimum security correctional facility in Danbury, Conn. stemming from a conviction for her part in a drug smuggling and money laundering scheme she got tangled up in 10 years earlier as a fresh college graduate. Kerman depicts the personalities she befriended in prison, including the Russian gangster’s wife who ruled the kitchen; Pop, the Spanish mami; lovelorn lesbians like Crazy Eyes; and the aged pacifist, Sister Platte. The project falls under Kohan’s rich overall deal at Lionsgate TV. When Netflix surprised Hollywood in March by outbidding major TV networks for the rights to House Of Cards, the company’s CEO Reed Hastings said that the deal was mostly a test but noted that he was looking to add a few more originals to the mix. Netflix is already in business with Lionsgate TV. In another first, the company in April signed an exclusive syndication deal with Lionsgate to stream up to 7 seasons of the studio’s acclaimed AMC drama Mad Men. Reruns of the period ad agency drama are slated to launch on Netflix next week. Ironically, Kohan’s signature series, Weeds, will no longer be available on Netflix as Showtime recently announced that it was pulling all of its current series off the video streaming service. (The shows will still be available through Showtime’s own TV Everywhere service.) Kohan recently executive produced another Lionsgate TV scripted project for a fledgling programming service, drama pilot Tough Trade for Epix which ultimately opted not to go into original series. Kohan and fellow Weeds executive producer Matthew Salsberg are writing an executive producing comedy project Whales for Showtime, and Kohan also is exec producing the Salsberg-penned comedy project Me & Lee, which is still in development at Syfy. Netflix’s stock has taken a beating lately following the company’s controversial decision to raise he price of its combined streaming and DVD rental service by 60%.
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