Can this Digital GrandDaddy Stay Relevant as Disney+, Apple TV+ and more enter the Fray?
For years, Netflix has been pointed to as the premiere streaming service and the foremost company responsible for popularizing watching content online instead of on a television or movie screen. It has earned a spot alongside Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google as one of the most influential companies in the world of 21st century technology and entertainment—being the N in the notorious acronym FAANG.
Recently, however, Netflix has been hitting some hard times. Its debt has been steadily increasing for a while and fewer companies are renewing their contracts with it, thus limiting the breadth of its library. Likewise, the launches of Disney+, HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, and Apple+ are creeping closer and closer. When these new streaming services become available, their parent companies will stop licensing content to Netflix, and they will bring about unprecedented competition.
While Netflix has slowly been increasing its amount of original content over the years, its most popular offerings remain properties from outside sources. As it has been for a couple years now, the two most watched programs on Netflix are “The Office” and “Friends.” In fact, one has to go pretty far down the list before finding a Netflix original among company’s most popular shows.
Once the streaming war begins, though, Netflix will lose many of these licensed-out titles. Originally airing on NBC, “The Office” will be available exclusively on Peacock. Likewise, being a Warner Brother’s television production, “Friends” will find its new streaming home on HBO Max. Netflix will thus be in a pickle, as they will have fewer titles in their libraries and fewer active deals with pre-established studios and networks.
Nevertheless, Netflix is responding to the impending streaming war with surprising optimism. The company’s CEO, Reed Hastings has expressed feelings of confidence, explaining how the increased competition will force Netflix to be creative and improve its model.
Content is, once again, Key in a Competitive Market
Creativity will be the key to success in the streaming war, as original content will largely determine which platforms outlast the others. Netflix has certainly been upping its original content game throughout 2018 and 2019. On the series side, season three of “Stranger Things” broke records for the company, and the innovative “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” introduced the choose-your-own-adventure model to television and garnered a Primetime Emmy win in the process.
Likewise, ever since Alfonso Cuaron’s 2018 Netflix original film “Roma” earned several Oscar nominations—including wins for best director and best foreign film, and a nomination for best picture—Netflix has been seen as a far more legitimate production company, worthy of immense talent and prestigious content. To an extent, Netflix has ran with this new reputation in 2019, creating Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas, as well as Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
It is a bold strategy for Netflix, but it seems like the company is going for prestige as its new brand. When the streaming war takes place, one of the things Disney, Warner Brothers, and NBC have that Netflix currently lacks is an identifiable brand-type. For the majority of streaming history, a subscription to a service simply meant that you were paying for a smorgasbord of content that could range all different genres and cater to diverse tastes. Now that streaming services and production companies are merging into one entity, subscribing becomes a far more divisive strategy based on brand recognition.
In order for Netflix to remain afloat, they will need to sell themselves as offering something not available anywhere else. For years creative and business-minded people have scratched their heads trying to figure out what kind of content Netflix desires. Perhaps this prestigious trend brings us closer to an answer.
Nevertheless, Netflix has also employed a couple other strategies to keep itself moving through 2019. It has dug into some preexisting intellectual properties and expanded upon them. Recently, it re-capitalized on “Breaking Bad” with Vince Gilligan’s “El Camino” taking place in the same universe as the show. Meanwhile, it also exploited 1990s nostalgia by producing original movies based off of old Nickelodeon cartoon shows “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Invader Zim.”
Therefore, Netflix’s playbook remains mysterious. Unlike other web-based companies of its caliber, Netflix keeps its data private. So while there are guesses and estimates about trends in Netflix’s model, it is quite possible that the company has a few unseen tricks still hidden up its sleeve. Only time will tell if Netflix will find a way to keep up with the competition, or if the service will go down as an immensely influential, yet tragically short-lived blip in entertainment history.
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