It didn’t take long for Netflix’s unscripted chief Brandon Riegg to bring The Circle to America. Days after the first version of the large Brother–meets–Catfish reality competition debuted on the U.K.’s Channel 4 in mid-September 2018, Riegg booked himself on a Sunday night red-eye to London to watch the show’s filming firsthand and meet with executives at series producer Studio Lambert.
Knowing other American outlets were sniffing around the format, Riegg raced to form a suggestion by the top of that very same week. The competitive hustle paid off: Shortly thereafter, Netflix closed a deal to try to multiple versions of The Circle before a number of its rivals even had an opportunity to bid for it. “I heard later that one among the U.S. broadcasters had somebody on route to the airport and that they were told to show around because Netflix had gotten it,” he says.
Riegg probably wouldn’t be sharing this story if The Circle hadn’t shaped up to be a serious win for Netflix’s unscripted division, which has been on a tear a previous couple of months. While the streamer’s refusal to consistently release verifiable audience data makes it impossible to assess shows supported viewership, social media metrics, and anecdotal evidence suggest several of Netflix’s recent reality shows are breaking through with audiences: