Conquest | Netflix spent $55m on a sci-fi series that will almost certainly never be released

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Around five years ago, Netflix spent a reported $55m on Conquest, a sci-fi TV series that was never finished – and may never be released at all…

After years of huge expenditure, and deals with some of the world’s best-known actors and filmmakers, streaming giants like Netflix and Disney+ have reversed course and started to reduce costs. And as subscription prices are jacked up, shows are cancelled or quietly removed from platforms, few stories sum up the late 2010s era of peak streaming than the one just broken by The New York Times.

It reports that, in 2018, Netflix signed a deal with filmmaker Carl Erik Rinsch to make an ambitious-sounding sci-fi series, initially called White Horse and later retitled Conquest. Set in a near future in which humans war with artificial beings called the Organic Intelligent, the series was snapped up by the streaming giant in a deal worth millions. Unusually, Rinsch – despite only having the solitary feature film 47 Ronin to his name, which flopped – was given final cut.

Filming got under way on the planned 13-episode series in 2019, only for Rinsch to display allegedly erratic behaviour on set. By the time the pandemic swept the globe the following year, Conquest had reportedly missed a number of its agreed milestones. The production soured to such an extent that, by 2021, Netflix reportedly emailed Rinsch to tell him that funding for the series was going to be pulled.

The strange saga also takes in coronavirus conspiracy theories, Rolls-Royces, and multi-million dollar investments in crypto currency. It is, in short, the most late 2010s/early 2020s story you’ll read this week. It’s genuinely quite jaw-dropping.

As for Conquest, legal proceedings are ongoing, with Rinsch insisting that Netflix still owes him $14m, while the streaming giant is refusing to budge. Rinsch could theoretically sell Conquest elsewhere, but with firms tightening their belts and Netflix stating that its expenditure to date would have to be paid up as part of any deal, it seems vanishingly unlikely that the series will appear on a small screen near you anytime soon.

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