Some Areas Netflix Can Consider to Survive in the Everchanging Game of Streaming
The other night I was talking with my wife and she mentioned an article she saw that said people are watching shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation over Netflix Originals and this made me stop and think about a lot of things regarding the streaming service. Now, Netflix has been dumping out new original content left and right for several months. There’s not a lack of original content on the service. However, why aren’t people watching it? Here are some of my thoughts and speculation as to why Netflix is in real trouble as companies like Disney and NBC create their own streaming platforms.
My first point goes to how Netflix treats their original content. From my standpoint (and this could be wrong) it looks like Netflix gives the green light to anything that says it wants to be a Netflix Original. This is the fastest way to get original content after all, but it leads to problems. One problem is that if you are less judicious about properties, you’ll spend a lot of money on shows that don’t bring money back in. In turn, because you’re now spending so much, you have to raise your prices every six months to keep up and consumers don’t like that. Netflix seems to have this idea of putting out all these TV shows and then seeing what people actually watch and only keep those. This leads us to my second point.
Netflix wants to be as secretive as possible. Netflix doesn’t release its viewership numbers like networks and while it doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, I think it plays a bigger role. If a show has low numbers, fans can more easily understand why shows get cancelled and it can potentially lead to fans getting others to watch shows. Case in point is Chuck. Chuck is one of my favorite shows of all time, but it was on the verge of cancellation pretty much every season. However, this allowed fans to rally in the early days of social media and get their friends and family to watch and get those numbers out to save the show. This is just one way that it was saved, too (via Water Cooler Journal). One suggestion I have is for Netflix to have transparent and honest numbers. This can help fans try to get friends to watch specific shows in a sea of overwhelming options.
Points three and four go really hand in hand. Point three is that Netflix doesn’t do a good job of advertising the vast majority of their shows. They make a large effort for some shows, but I would argue that’s only about 10% of all their programming. Back in the day of cable TV, networks used commercials to advertise new shows and we didn’t have this deal where you can watch shows months after they aired. I know that commercials suck, but one or two 30-second ads for original content before I start binging my favorites, could help steer me towards new content.
My fourth point it just the interface of Netflix is pretty decent, except when it’s not. There are so many times I’ve gone through the “Because You Watched [X]…” lists and none of the suggestions made sense. Combine that with the fact that the same shows can show up for all of your suggestions and you’ve got a problem, especially when those suggestions are original content. It can be hard to wade through the mess of “suggestions” to find a solid suggestion of original content based on your preferences.
Finally, genre might matter. Some of the most rewatched shows tend to be sitcoms like The Office, Parks and Rec, and Friends and I don’t know of very many that are Netflix Originals that haven’t been cancelled already.
In short, I think Netflix will fare better after everyone else launches their streaming services if it is more judicious about what projects it takes, is more transparent about numbers with consumers, actually advertise more of their original content to its consumer base, fixing how it lays out content and suggestions, and by making more good sitcoms. Another factor that should be considered is simply the culture we have of binging shows that can lead to consumers not watching a show for a few months after it releases. What do you think though?