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Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (LGF): Is Netflix, Inc. (NFLX)’s Latest Hit Show Doomed If This Star Actress Walks Away?

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Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is making big bets on original programming. The company has reportedly spent more than $200 million on shows such as Kevin Spacey vehicle House of Cards, cult comedy revival Arrested Development, and women’s prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black. The gamble appears to be paying off, but nothing comes easy in Hollywood.

The first batch of originals has produced 14 Emmy nominations, and Orange might beat them all next year. After all, Rolling Stone says that it’s “the better written, more heartfelt, and more complete show” and added: “It shines where Cards fails and, if the TV gods are on our side, it will end up with just as many nominations as its big brother in 2014.”

Orange was renewed for a second season before the first one even became available to Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) subscribers. That’s a gutsy call, and also a strong endorsement of the show’s quality. Reviews like the gushy Rolling Stone article indicate that it’s the right bet, too.

But what if the much-lauded cast doesn’t come together for the second season? The Hollywood Reporter says that key cast member Laura Prepon won’t be a regular next year.

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Laura Prepon, in character as Orange Is the New Black‘s Alex Vause. Source: Netflix.

“Prepon will only return to the [Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF)] TV-produced drama to wrap up her storyline, though the door remains open for the actress to return to the series,” says the Reporter. The magazine “confirmed” this data point but won’t spill the beans on its insider sources.

Removing Prepon from the boiling Orange pot could ruin the hit-making recipe. Her character, drug mule Alex Vause, is the reason series lead Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) is in prison to begin with, and their strained relations play a central role in the first season.

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) wants to shoot down the Reporter scoop. The company told E! Online and others that the rumor is misleading. “It’s not accurate. Our season is still developing and nothing is confirmed,” goes the party line. Showrunner Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) isn’t weighing in on the issue.

I’m guessing that there’s something to the Reporter scoop. Notice how carefully Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s spokesperson worded its rebuttal. This is less than a flat-out denial and just barely more than nothing at all.

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