Netflix backs El Chapo documentary investment despite Sean Penn's warning

By Media & Advertising FOXBusiness

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With Netflix shares at record levels and a multibillion-dollar plan to expand its original content platform already in place, the streaming giant stood its ground on Friday despite actor Sean Penn’s warning that the release of a new documentary about notorious Mexican drug lord El Chapo could endanger his life.

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Netflix released “The Day I Met El Chapo” as scheduled Friday, despite the assertion by Penn’s lawyer that “blood will be on their hands if this film causes bodily harm.” The Oscar-winning actor’s representatives argued the documentary, which centers on the October 2015 meeting between Penn, Joaquin Guzman Loera and actress Kate del Castillo, could place his life in jeopardy because it implies he worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to facilitate El Chapo’s arrest, according to multiple reports.

Netflix is standing behind its El Chapo docuseries at a time when executives are touting a plan to pour even more resources into original content offerings. The California-based company spent about $6 billion on content in 2017 and said it will spend as much as $8 billion in fiscal 2018.

“The series launched today so it is already available on the platform. We do not share any numbers on costs,” a Netflix representative said in a statement.

The streaming giant declined FOX Business’ request for details on production costs for the documentary, which consists of three episodes. However, a prominent documentary filmmaker, who spoke to FOX Business on condition of anonymity, estimated that the docuseries likely had a budget in the low to mid seven-figure range.

While Netflix’s dispute with Penn played out in the media, the company’s stock price hit its highest-ever level, rising as high as $202 before settling at $194.16 as of market close Friday. Shares boomed after executives detailed price hikes for new and existing subscribers.

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“Penn was given the opportunity on multiple occasions to participate in The Day I Met El Chapo and did not do so. The events surrounding the now-infamous meeting have been well covered, including by Penn himself in Rolling Stone and his many public comments since. The only new ground we’re breaking with this series is to give Kate a chance to finally tell her side of this stranger-than-fiction story.”

Del Castillo helped broker the initial meeting between Penn and El Chapo, which took place just days before the drug lord’s arrest. Penn documented their meeting in a lengthy piece for Rolling Stone, which was published hours after El Chapo’s capture.

“It is reprehensible that, in their ongoing, relentless efforts to gain additional attention and publicity, Ms del Castillo and her team (who have zero firsthand knowledge) have sought to create this profoundly false, foolish and reckless narrative,” a Penn spokesman told the New York Times. “The notion that Mr Penn or anyone on his behalf alerted DoJ to the trip is a complete fabrication and baldfaced lie. It never happened, nor would there have been any reason for it to have happened.”

Aside from “The Day I Met El Chapo,” Netflix has produced several documentaries, including the “Chef’s Table” and “Last Chance U” series. Original series like “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things” have earned critical acclaim and helped to drive growth in the company’s subscriber base, which rose to nearly 110 million globally as of September.

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