Netflix is making a Conan the Barbarian TV show – could it be the next Witcher?

(Image credit: Kraft74/Shutterstock)

Netflix has acquired exclusive rights for Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard's famous epic fantasy hero that originally launched Arnold Schwarzenegger as an action superstar.

Deadline reports that Netflix can "develop works across TV and film, both live-action and animated" in the Conan universe, but will start with a live-action series. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as Conan in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian, and its 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer. The franchise was later rebooted with a 2011 film Conan the Barbarian starring Jason Momoa that bombed at the box office and with Conan fans in general.

Conan the Barbarian started with dozens of stories by Howard in the early 20th century, before a slew of other SFF authors wrote their own interpretations of the character across decades, producing over 50 novels and dozens of short stories of Conan adventures. There is a huge amount of material for the series to mine, though any show would likely stick with the canonical Howard stories.

Conan...following The Witcher?

As a fellow sword-and-sorcery property, Conan closely aligns with The Witcher, another Netflix-licensed property with a live-action series as well as a planned live-action prequel Blood Origin and a planned animated film Nightmare of the Wolf. If the initial Conan series is equally successful with audiences, Netflix could easily translate the huge amount of Conan lore into spinoff shows and movies.

As of now, Netflix has begun searching for a showrunner and writers, and no casting decisions have been made yet. Fans of the original film will undoubtedly keep their fingers crossed that Schwarzenegger will at least make a cameo appearance of some kind, but it's probably safe to assume that they will cast a far younger actor for the main role.

Amazon previously bought the rights to a TV series in 2018, with Emmy-winning Game of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik attached to the project, but nothing came of it.

Fredrik Malmberg and Mark Wheeler, who own the Conan rights, will executive produce. They previously worked on 2017 SyFy series Blood Drive, which focused on a dystopian death race with cars powered by blood.

(Image credit: Universal)

Schwarzenegger's lost "King Conan" film

Arnold Schwarzenegger would love to return to Conan, but stated that Cabinet Entertainment, which owns the rights and sold them to Netflix, hasn't taken him up on the offer.

In an interview with The Arnold Fans, which we found via Looper, the actor said that the owner of the rights is "some young guy" who was convinced by others into turning Conan into a series, while Schwarzenegger claims that "we have been trying to convince him for years" to "do another Conan movie".

Arnold's idea is that a new Conan film would "have me play King Conan, when Conan is like 70 years old and he's disgusted by sitting on the throne and being the king". He claimed that the script is not far from being finished, and that the only thing standing in the way of it happening was the rights holders pulling the trigger.

Aquaman writer Will Beall and Fast & Furious writer Chris Morgan reportedly wrote this script as a direct sequel to 1982's Conan the Barbarian. However, it seems now that it will never see the light of day.

Based on this, it is unlikely that the showrunners have a good enough relationship with the actor to invite him on for a cameo, when all he wanted was a chance to return in a starring role to the franchise that launched his career.

Michael Hicks

Michael Hicks began his freelance writing career with TechRadar in 2016, covering emerging tech like VR and self-driving cars. Nowadays, he works as a staff editor for Android Central, but still writes occasional TR reviews, how-tos and explainers on phones, tablets, smart home devices, and other tech.