In the first quarter of 2022, it finally happened: Netflix had a bad quarter. He lost more than 200,000 subscribers and acknowledged that new competitors like Disney Plus and HBO Max were effectively ending the way the company had been doing business for nearly a decade. Now Netflix is moving away from the frenetic release pace and mid-sized movies that made it a near-critical darling with a new plan to make “bigger movies” at a less “greedy” pace according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter.
You know, kind of what most of Hollywood is already doing.
A take-out meal The Hollywood Reporter piece is that, while it seems like Netflix isn’t exactly sure what it wants to do, it just wants to do it in a more thoughtful way than it has over the past decade.
But the last decade wasn’t just about flooding the area with content in an effort to quickly build a library that could attempt to rival those of Disney and Warner Bros. It was also about Netflix trying to bring some of the tech mindset to Hollywood. . In Hollywood, caution is in order. The reason Hollywood moved away from the mid-range movies that Netflix briefly made its bread and butter is because Hollywood found bigger, more consistent returns on huge blockbusters (usually involving some sort of superhero or an actor who plays a superhero in another franchise).
Netflix, with its then almost endless source of money and no need to please distributors or theaters, could afford to produce more varied content to try and secure people’s subscriptions each month. And it could further streamline the hefty expense as it tried to better understand audiences through meticulous analysis of viewer data that its competitors simply didn’t have access to.
Netflix was supposed to transform Hollywood. Instead, it turns to the same practices that made its competitors into giants, but without the lucrative franchises, fandoms, and huge back catalogs enjoyed by those same competitors.
Netflix is already working on creating a new ad-supported subscription tier to secure more subscribers reluctant to spend money on the streaming wars. Peacock and Paramount Plus already have similar tiers, and Disney Plus and HBO Max also plan to add ad-supported tiers.
Netflix is also cracking down on password sharing, a practice it says is used by more than 100 million households to avoid additional subscriptions. Previously, password sharing was apparently ignored by the company – and sometimes even implicitly approved. HBO Max, meanwhile, had built-in mitigations for password sharing.
But the main way Netflix is now chasing competition is in how it chooses which movies to make. CEO Ted Sarandos noted in Netflix’s latest earnings call that it will focus on “big event movies,” and the company has spent the past two months ruthlessly wiping out large parts of departments like animation. (which is usually more expensive to produce with lower yields), original independent feature films, and live-action family films.
You’ll notice that two of them, animation and live-action family action, are also areas where Netflix’s biggest competitor, Disney, is doing big business. It’s almost as if Netflix is doing what many movie companies have done before: stepping away from competing with the House of Mouse in areas where it has historically been dominated.
But, given that Disney is the largest producer and distributor of motion pictures in the United States by a very wide margin, has a virtual monopoly in theaters, and boasts a library of the greatest franchises in movie history, moving away from its competitors might not help Netflix. And structuring yourself more like Hollywood might not help either. When Bob Chapek became CEO of Disney, he quickly began revamping the company to operate more like a technology company.
Trying to bring the tech ethos to Hollywood may not be a major win for Netflix, but the same can’t be said for its competitors.
Disclosure: The edge is currently producing a series with Netflix.