Monday, August 17, 2020

He basically came out and admitted they're playing a short term game and no one noticed (Damn, Netflix is good at this)

This is another master class in controlling the narrative from Netflix's Ted Sarandos.

For those coming late to the party...
The standard case for Netflix is a long game of dominance through content. It is an argument that has launched countless business articles but when it comes to what are effectively the three questions journalists and investors need answered, there has been relatively little attention paid to the first and vanishingly little to the other two.

1. How many people are watching the service’s original content?

2. Who owns that content?

3. Does it have legs and broad, preferably international appeal?

Shows with legs are programs that retain their value as IP for decades, in some many cases more than a half century. Here are a few of the over 50 crowd that can still attract an audience: I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show, The Adams Family/the Munsters,  Mission Impossible, Star Trek. You can find similar examples with movies, but with a cable channel or a streaming service where you want to provide as many hours of diversion as possible, quantity has a quality all its own.

The ROI on the almost 700 episodes of the Simpsons is stunning but, in a sense, shows like Leave It to Beaver and the Brady Bunch are even more impressive, non-hits that actually grew in popularity after going off the air. At the other end of the spectrum are reality and talk, which pull in big numbers on first run (and are incredibly cheap to produce) but generate almost no interest after aging a year or two.

Keep all of this in mind while reading this except from Julia Alexander's article in the Verge. [emphasis added]
That includes content that executives like Sarandos weren’t interested in developing even five years ago. In 2015, Sarandos spoke about “the kind of disposable nature of reality” programming at an investor conference, as reported by Bloomberg. He added at the time that it “basically doesn’t have much of a long shelf life,” noting “it hasn’t been a great category for us.” Now, Sarandos has changed his tune. Netflix is all in on unscripted programming and reality television — and numbers cited by Sarandos seem to back it up. (Netflix doesn’t release public numbers for all of its programming, so it’s hard to say for certain.) 

But two of Netflix’s most recent reality TV shows, Floor is Lava and Too Hot to Handle are some of its “biggest hits ever,” Sarandos said on the call. Prior to Floor is Lava and Too Hot to Handle, shows like Love is Blind and The Circle dominated pop culture conversation; Netflix renewed both for two more seasons right out the gate. Sarandos added that Too Hot to Handle was just as popular in Japan as it was in the United States, and as Netflix tries to find content that’s received well around the world, it’s a good sign of what to expect. Sarandos said as much on the call, arguing that “the biggest motivation to invest in reality and unscripted is not that it’s a cost saving production,” but rather “how important it becomes in people’s lives.” 

You'll notice the subtle shift from shelf life to popularity. The piece is presented as a learning from data story, but there's  nothing here to suggest that recent experience in any way contradicts the belief that reality shows are disposable. Instead what the article seems to say is that Netflix is going to spend more money and resources on shows that don't add any lasting value to the content library but which do produce good numbers and lots of hype.

But that's not the story Netflix wants told.

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