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Netflix looks to hook subscribers with 'Arrested Development'

  • This undated publicity photo released by Netflix shows David Cross, left, and Portia de Rossi in a scene from "Arrested Development," premiering May 26, 2013 on Netflix. The sitcom, also starring Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, was canceled by Fox in 2006 after three seasons. (AP Photo/Netflix, Sam Urdank)

SAN FRANCISCO — Netflix is hoping this weekend's release of the resurrected TV series "Arrested Development" will draw more subscribers to its Internet video service.

The award-winning show about the dysfunctional Bluth family returns Sunday, seven years after Fox cancelled the series. The revival coincides with Netflix's own resounding comeback from a customer backlash over price increases and shareholders' worries about rising expenses. The adversity had raised doubts about the company's management and future.

Now, Netflix is winning back subscribers and investors with a bold attempt to establish its $8-per-month service as a home entertainment powerhouse that rivals the broadcast television networks and premium cable channels such as HBO.

"Arrested Development," a comedy that won six Emmy awards during a critically acclaimed three-year run, is the third exclusive series from Netflix Inc. this year. It's part of Netflix's effort to add more original programming to a selection that consists primarily of old TV series and movies.

With 29.2 million U.S. subscribers — far more than the 21.9 million TV subscribers that leading cable provider Comcast Corp. has — Netflix has already reshaped home entertainment.

The service is encouraging more people to forego cable and satellite TV service and rely on Netflix to watch popular TV series a year or more after they originally were shown. Netflix also is empowering viewers to watch an entire season of a TV series in a matter of days instead of months.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings isn't done disrupting things yet. He is spending more than $2 billion annually, including about $200 million to finance original programming that can be watched on traditional computers, smartphones, tablets, video game consoles and Internet-connected TVs.

By expanding its library of content, Netflix is hoping people will decide to spend their idle time on its Internet video service rather than play video games, fraternize on Facebook, surf cable or satellite TV or watch a DVD. (Netflix started out as a DVD-by-mail rental service, but it is phasing that out in favor of Internet streaming.)

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