I’ve written a few features about Netflix now, and there probably will be more down the line, because it’s obvious the streaming network isn’t going anywhere even with so may others trying to compete with it. You have to admit that Netflix offers a lot of value for your $10.99 a month (or whatever it is now), but as someone who has limited time to watch the movies I need to write about, finding the time to survey all that’s available to me at any given time on Netflix just isn’t feasible.
First of all, Netflix is a television network that doesn’t need to sell advertisement or release its shows in any sort of spaced-out episodic pattern. It can produce entire seasons then release them all at once for binge watchers who want to watch 13 hours of whatever is being released each Friday. It’s something that other networks are having a hard time competing with, even though there’s still something nice about a show having a cliffhanger and not having it resolved for you in mere seconds.
Netflix also has a lot of money to spend on talent, and they’ve been making deals with some of the biggest names in entertainment to get them to produce even more content for the network. Mark Millar’s Millarworld was bought last August, and though one comic-related project has been announced, there really hasn’t been much to show for it. When will see or hear about any of the Netflix shows from Shondaland or Ryan Murphy, creatives who were the bread and butter for networks like ABC and Fox/FX?
It’s almost like Netflix is deliberately trying to put everyone else out of business, except that most networks have been around long enough to know what works and when to schedule stuff. There was a time when networks were picking the nights they released their shows very carefully, but that is non-existent with Netflix, who has made sure that viewers have a ton of stuff to watch every single weekend, as the other networks dump more and more on Sunday nights, making it impossible to see or DVR everything.
On top of that, Netflix is becoming a major movie studio where it’s buying movies in turnaround from the likes of Paramount and even buying movies that the studios can’t figure out what to do, as was the case with The Cloverfield Paradox. Netflix is also producing its own films, from huge epics like Bright to some of the smaller comedies featuring name talent. Netflix is just as much an indie studio that takes chances on tougher-to-sell premises as it is a major studio hoping to offer mainstream movies to the masses.
Netflix also competes with all the cable networks with comedy specials featuring some of the biggest names in comedies like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, who normally would be going to HBO with their specials. Even Ricky Gervais, who was an HBO mainstay, has shifted over to Netflix, who has released a number of his movies. Netflix even has cooking shows that can appeal to the fans of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
So far, the one territory where Netflix hasn’t tried to compete is with the sports programming of an ESPN or the higher cultural offerings of a network like PBS. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but at least right now, those two networks have a pretty good niche.
One of the problems with doing so much and trying to be something to please everyone is that you can only get the word out about so much of this content rather than just dumping it on the homepage and hoping for the best. Who knows how many of these shows and movies are actually finding an audience? Oh, right. Netflix knows, but they’re not telling.
Netflix is now releasing three or four feature films every week, and it’s becoming the same problem as what’s happening in theaters where a few movies do all the business and others quickly fade away. Unfortunately, it’s often the smaller independent films with new and young talent, personal films or ones that try to be daring or different that just don’t find an audience.
Jared Leto starred in a drama called The Outsider a few weeks back. I haven’t seen it, but Iheard it wasn’t very good. A few people reviewed it, and I actually saw some advertising in my neighborhood, but it came and went with few people really making any sort of deal about it. There were other movies that had the same sort of anti-impact. People only care about what they know and everything else
As someone who is constantly being notified of new Netflix shows and films via trailers that I may or may not want to post, it starts to become a bit much, since I know I’ll never have time to watch much of these movies/shows, even the ones that look good. In fact, there’s so much stuff on Netflix I haven’t watched that it’s almost debilitating when I try to go to Netflix to decide what to try to catch up on.
I certainly have my favorite Netflix shows like Love and Ozark, but I can’t do the all-at-once binge watching that’s become so popular, because I know that I’ll have to wait for months or longer for more.
Then there’s the older Netflix series like Bloodline, Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, series that helped make Netflix what it is today. Those shows are also still available, but you really have to go digging for them as all the older content gets piled upon by newer content that may or may not be of similar quality.
It’s certainly interesting to see Netflix looking overseas to other country’s television to offer more variety to subscribers, but there’s stuff on there I wouldn’t even know about if I didn’t get daily press releases and trailers appearing in my Inbox. I have no idea how anyone else figures out to what to watch other than the obvious, like the Marvel shows and such.
In some ways, Netflix is relying almost entirely on social media and word-of-mouth to get the word out on some of these shows and movies, which can only work as long as people don’t have other things to think and talk about… like politics. (Netflix has stayed surprisingly apolitical compared to HBO, who has had great success with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Bill Maher’s show.)
Mind you, I haven’t even mentioned the movies and television shows from other sources that has been a staple on Netflix but can only be maintained on the service for so long before it’s replaced by other stuff…. Mostly new content. There’s a reaon why so may sites post those “What’s Leaving Netflix” articles each month.
Who knows if there will be a breaking point or critical mass,where there’s so much content on Netflix that it can’t even handle the level of production and behind-the-scenes work needed to maintain it? Right now, Netflix probably is a great place to work, because there’s so much work available for people within the entertainment industry, but what happens when it reaches that point where it’s overreached? Will it become obvious to the higher-ups who are giving the go-ahead on so much expansion in such a short period of time? Like most things involving Netflix, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor