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Netflix’s bad habits have caught up with it


I’m bored of Netflix. They have simply gone the assembly line direction instead of the direction of art, at least for some big niches. For example, every True Crime docuseries on Netflix is the same crap. Once you’ve seen three, you’ve seen them all. They get each cop involved in a big empty room, sit them on a solitary chair, put a dramatic light above them, and shoot them in 4k. Then they direct it at a pace to bore the hell out of you.

My business produces storytelling videos for e-commerce and we almost got into the television/entertainment business at one point, as it is simply so cheap to pump out middling quality documentaries. Stock photography and interviews and cheap-but-good editing. You’ll notice solo YouTubers are making great documentaries. I don’t know how they are spending so much money considering the quality of much of the crap they make. High schooler YouTubers make similar quality with their iPhones.

There must be thousands of talented directors who haven’t been given their big break yet who have artistic ideas and would almost work for free to be given a chance to make a name for themselves. Give them resources and a chance and see who has what it takes.

This is only one relevant factor, ofcourse.

Unrelated: I’m currently trying out CuriosityStream so I feel less guilty for the time I spend watching TV. At least I’ll be learning something.


> …it is simply so cheap to pump out middling quality documentaries. Stock photography and interviews and cheap-but-good editing. You’ll notice solo YouTubers are making great documentaries.

Reminds me of this hilarious video -


Someone, SOMEone, someone should make the radio? Radio, RADIO, RadioLab how to.


Not only that was hilarious, but also grabbed at the same time the essence of Netflix, and all that is wrong with it. 300K a year Netflix producers...take notes.:-)


Yup. This is exactly what we do at work. At least the past few years, most people couldn't tell the difference. We pump them out. It's 80% as good as something way harder to make. But by now people have seen so many, maybe they're starting to tire of it.

That was hilarious btw.


That was great thanks for sharing.


Never saw this video before. It absolutely made my day. Brilliant!


That was must see TV. Thanks for sharing.


> My business produces storytelling videos for e-commerce and we almost got into the television/entertainment business at one point, as it is simply so cheap to pump out middling quality documentaries.

Funny, I stumbled upon a documentary “Meltdown”, which is about the Three Mile Island nuclear incident in 1979.

I expected something along the lines of HBO’s Chernobyl, but it just seems like a very cheap, Discovery-style documentary?

It’s very poorly done, and I stopped watching after 2 episodes.


HBO's Chernobyl is not a documentary...


I don't see a claim that it was.


Chernobyl is historical drama based on real events, not a documentary. Some characters are entirely invented, sometimes multiple different people are merged into one and so on. The authors even made podcast where they explain what is made up and why

It realistic and quite close to what went on, but not documentary at all.


Maybe the story just isn't as exciting as Chernobyl. I mean, nobody died. Nobody even got sick with radiation poisoning. Not to be morbid, but that just isn't going to be as compelling a story.

I wonder if they just greenlit it because they had such a success with the Chernobyl series and wanted to do it again.


> There must be thousands of talented directors who haven’t been given their big break yet who have artistic ideas and would almost work for free to be given a chance to make a name for themselves.

You're assuming the general population wants artistic, fresh ideas rather than the same re-hashed tried & true stuff.

Disney pretty clearly proves rehashing the exact same thing over and over again is a never ending gold mine.

Disney probably makes $1M for every $1 A24 makes.


> Disney pretty clearly proves rehashing the exact same thing over and over again is a never ending gold mine.

And yet, Disney's business itself was once a brand new, revolutionary idea.

Perhaps the table stakes aren't just "making something innovative", but creating opportunities for themselves to build the next Big Thing.


Isn't this true of the broader media marketplace? If you look at Prime, once you're past some recognisable movies, you'll see a hilarious list of 3-4/10 IMDB movies you've never heard of before. They're out there and they get no buzz and are largely ignored.

On Netflix, they're throwing stuff at the wall to see what will stick. And they're doing it in various genre because it's a diverse world out there (an Indian soapie is different to a British one, for example). While your bar might be high, someone starved of space x zombie crossovers will like something just enough not to cancel their subscription for a couple more months.


I had CuriosityStream for a year, and used it for about two weeks. It's also just formulaic drivel accompanied by stock B-roll. My day is much better, and bears more fruit, when I don't waste any of it in front of a TV.


Yeah, I am little confused by all of this as well. Maybe because I don't "stream". But from the article:

> “We have to have an Adam Project and a Bridgerton every month and to make sure that that’s the expectation of the service constantly,” he said.

Are there people to watch an "Adam Project" and a "Bridgerton" (I assume these are interesting shows) every month? Are there people that are some kind of stream-receptacle?


> Are there people to watch an "Adam Project" and a "Bridgerton" (I assume these are interesting shows) every month?

In case the specific shows threw you off, those were meant just as examples of quality. They don't mean that people would literally rewatch the same show.

As for are there people who watch shows every month? Absolutely, many people watch an episode of a show or a movie every evening.


Bridgerton is middling costume, fine for insomnia


Our family cut off all of Netflix, Disney, etc. and now I have just CuriosityStream[1] (I think after hearing it on Curiosity Daily Podcast). I watch that. Our family rarely watch TV.



So stream cutting is the new cord cutting.


Curiosity Stream + Nebula App are a great deal together.


The deal is too good. They need to raise prices at some point. This company is making $3 per year per user lol.


Maybe something like Steam Greenlit for Netflix. But as some have pointed out already Netflix is in the streaming business, not the risky content creation business.

(I still fucking miss the OA and Sense8 if you follow my comment history)


The OA, in particular, was one that I loved. It lived in this niche that I really like. Abstract supernatural horror? Lynchian stuff.

Dark was around the same time as well.

My perception of the untouchable Netflix was changed when they cancelled The OA. For one, I didn’t really trust them with multi-season serialized content anymore and, two I started to notice good content on other streaming service.

I sort of wonder if every faithful Netflix subscriber had an OA moment over the last few years? Where they lost faith in the service because of a poorly-handled choice for a show they enjoyed.

(By the way, if you dig the OA and Sense8 you might like Severance on Apple TV.)


I had that OA moment. I loved it and they cancelled for no apparent reason when there were so much more to be told. It made me wary of getting involved in a Netflix story again.


> Netflix is in the streaming business, not the risky content creation business.

You could say this about anything. “Walmart is in the selling business, not in the food business.” But in the end, when, in a remote village in France, 3 dads discuss at a bar about how Netflix has probably gone below TV level (which is quite a performance), then you business opportunities dwindle pretty fast.

It’s known. People discuss it for lunch. Everyone’s looking for a Netflix alternative and is discussing their experiments. Only young teens without much taste are satisfied, and not that much.


> I’m bored of Netflix. They have simply gone the assembly line direction instead of the direction of art, at least for some big niches. For example, every True Crime docuseries on Netflix is the same crap.

My benchmark for this genre is Forensic Files. I have yet to find another one that is this concise and informative.


I agree. Though slightly off topic, Forensic Files was pretty biased. The educational aspect mostly makes up for it, but they make forensic science appear way more rock solid than it was back at the time. Many of the crimes featured were solved because the perpetrator was so incompetent. But every episode had to end with something along the lines of "this would have been the perfect crime if not for the science!"

Would be nice to have a show like that again with a similar format but eased back on the law enforcement propaganda.


“Content is King” We all know this, Netflix knows this. And yet for some reason for years they have been aiming for quantity and not quality.

Money is not enough in this department and baseball metaphors don’t do justice illustrating just how hard it is to put together a team that has that special thing going on. Some would argue it’s impossible - teams like the one behind Better Call Saul are just extremely rare and can’t be rushed. The traditional system has sort of known this for a long time, I think.

Netflix tried rushing. I’ve personally worked on a failed series season made by the company and it was a chaotic clusterfuck. So are their efforts in ordering and buying content haphazardly to stuff their library with something. Now they’re probably going to have to learn the slow quality development and bring back many of the traditional practices they threw out the window.

This is a good thing for audiences though. I think we’re going to be seeing Netflix settle as one of many big content delivery platforms in the long term.


There's a legend of when Sony bought Columbia Pictures which is probably not true but the story is, after Sony bought Columbia Pictures, some Japanese executives flew over to meet with the top management at Columbia. The Columbia management explained to the Japanese execs that only 1 in 20 movies makes a profit. The Japanese executives talked to each other in Japanese and then turned back to the Columbia management and said "Please only make the profitable movies" (lol)

Just to spell it out in case the point wasn't clear. The Columbia management was trying to explain they don't know and have no way of knowing up front which movies will be good and which movies will sell and make their money back. Instead they're always gambling by funding a bunch of movies and it only works out because the few hits pay for all the non-hits.


This seems like a mirror to the other classic apocryphal story where the IBM ask a new Japanese manufacturer to only have a 3/1000 defect rate and the Japanese seem alarmed by this request.

When the product arrives there's a seperate little box with the defective items that have been manufactured seperately to meet the spec.

(There's also the "half of my advertising is effective, I don't know which half" line)


The more entertaing version of this story goes:

IBM asks Japanese manufacturer to make 100 boards, specifying 1% failure rate.

On the day of the delivery from the manufacturer, the Japanese CEO comes to inspect the final shipment.

After doing so, he discusses the contract with his chief engineer, and the engineer mentions the failure rate spec.

The CEO nods, takes a board from a box, breaks it over his knee, and says "There is our failure rate".


The half of advertising is effective trope hasn’t been true on the internet for over a decade. Advertisers on the internet know exactly how effective their advertising is.


I get your point, but it doesn't necessarily implicate that you should try to replicate precious hits? Why pretend you've found the formula when it's clear you have no idea?

It seems like every celebrity had their shot at a sitcom in the 90s for example. Is it like the saying about nobody getting fired for buying IBM? But then, risk-taking within that narrow space was limited. From the Seinfeld Wikipedia article:

'The pilot was first screened to a group of two dozen NBC executives in Burbank, California, in early 1989. It did not yield the explosion of laughter garnered by the pilots for the decade's previous NBC successes like The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls. Brandon Tartikoff was not convinced the show would work. A Jewish man from New York himself, Tartikoff characterized it as "Too New York, too Jewish".'

It was almost not even aired.

Squid Game seems to have been a gamble. I'd like to see more like that, but I'm afraid they'll over-fit to that success as well. US remake perhaps? Sequels, prequels, spin-offs. "The 100 must-see dystopian Korean horror shows on Netflix 2023“?


Squid Game's success is partially due to international mainstream audiences not being familiar with Korean overly dramatic narrative style. Once one has seen and gotten used to their melodrama style, they are in a rut just like US laugh track sitcoms.


> Instead they're always gambling by funding a bunch of movies and it only works out because the few hits pay for all the non-hits.

So, Venture Capital? xD


Pretty much. xD


Unprofitable movies is just accounting. Something to do with Hollywood union compensation or something.


There are obvious flops based on how much it cost to make and how much it made in the box office.


They were probably fooled by metrics. People were watching the crap, so it looked like crap was good enough (until it wasn’t).


Metrics can easily fool you on Netflix, because many will watch an entire bad season of a show. If you had to watch an episode a week, and you don’t care for the show, missing an episode one week will easily cause you to just drop the show and viewer number quickly drop off.

On Netflix I’ve watch entire seasons of bad shows, because it’s easy, and it might get better and now I’ve already watched the first two episodes. What does happen, and which can’t be meassured, is how many shows I don’t start the second season at all, because season two of that other Netflix original was bad, so there’s a big risk this is as well.

Part of the problem could be eliminated by moving to more classical episodical shows, rather that trying to make every show storylines. It would also make meassuring easier.


And it would result in people not sticking around till the end of the season -> less views.


Yes! It takes so much more to gain the kind of insight that is valuable for film/art. And it is very difficult to scale. I thought they were onto something when they were experimenting with the gamified Black Mirror stuff because A) it implied something totally new and proprietary in the artform and B) it could probably lead to more information and more feedback all around.

Also, they never even tried to build any sort of community or conversation around anything on the platform. No creative form of discovery for different types of viewers. It’s just a one-way interface of content rectangles that are presented to you in algorithmic order.

In my own personal view on this, I think we will see a whole plethora of boutique niche vod platforms built using off-the-shelf tech from the cloud providers. Netflix only had around a decade of a technological upper-hand and it’s been a couple years that anyone can build a VOD platform.


Netflix viewers used to be really good at rating movies and then getting recommendations based on those ratings. The Netflix ratings actually meant something once upon a time.

And then, one day, Netflix just got rid of this.

I’m still awestruck by the fact that they had this incredible and free source of data and they just relieved themselves of it.


Very true. They find something that's kind of amusing, then milk it until it bleeds (gross analogy, sorry...).

"Nailed It", sure, I can watch it from time to time but it doesn't mean I will watch 150 other baking shows.

Same thing with "Jessica Jones". I literally found articles about "The top 30 superhero shows on Netflix this year", trying to remember the name of this one. After a while you realize that the funny premise stops being engaging after a couple of episode and the spell is broken.

I watch almost no Netflix these days but I got excited about the new season of Russian Doll, but despite an original script, it doesn't have the punch of the first season. Perhaps it's not just a money grab, but I would have preferred more risk-taking. Why not let created Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, and Amy Poehler do something new and crazy instead of a season 2, for example?


People complain that Netflix kills shows too soon.

People complain that Netflix drags shows on past their prime.

People complain.


One issue is that they don't keep writers and show runners around. Each season gets new writers so any magic there was in season one of lost in season two. The tone is the same but you lose something when you bring on me people. The do this because of the lag between seasons and the fact that they don't hire on writers, but rather contract them on a per season basis.


Most of what I watched on Netflix was this cookie cutter rubbish, but what they don't know is I was usually just putting that on in the background or when falling asleep.

Even though that accounts for 90% of what I watch, I cancelled Netflix because the 10% I actually care about isn't there now.


I think they realized a few years back that HBO, Disney and the other major IP holders will be pulling out entirely and setting up their own streaming services, not because Netflix didn't give them a big enough cut of the pie, but simply because they saw how well Netflix did and realized that tech was no longer an issue they'd work hard to resolve in 2020+. Once Netflix saw that on the horizon, they went into panic mode and bought anything half decent to have something to put on their library. In particular, it seems like the main thing driving one special niche Netflix created - the movie packed with multiple A and B list stars that has great production but a mediocre story at best - it gets views and attention, even though it's boring as hell...


Arguably, MLB Advanced Media killed Netflix by commodifying streaming tech.

Using MLBAM, any company could set up high quality streaming services cheaply and instantly.

For example, WWE went from announcing they would be creating a streaming service to actually delivering a highly successful and glitch free one within months.


These last few years have been fantastic for show developers, screen writers, and anyone in series development, as all the new streaming services are literally trying to buy the talent to make their services successful.


The land grab cycle is always the best time if you’re the thing trying to be acquired.

In the early days of Uber it was a dream. Free and massively discounted rides all the time.


> bought anything half decent

The problem is, it's not even close to half-decent. It's just a huge amount of pulp that is so boring you actually ask yourself existential questions after a few minutes of watching this.


Yeah, I agree. I mostly gave up on netflix because their SFF catalog has been underwhelming for so long.

SFF genre has outstanding authors like Brandon Sanderson, Will Wight, Jay Kristoff, Jim Butcher etc. who are producing amazing content for an adult audience at a much faster rate than I can consume with a busy schedule. In contrast Netflix titles simply fail to catch up - there are few good titles (100 & Arcane are the last ones I enjoyed) but for those too the storylines come nowhere close to as interesting as the best works by aforementioned authors.

At some point I realized I was spending almost all of my free time in books and 0% on Netflix and cancellation was a no brainer at that point. Likely I'm just too niche for mainstream streaming services.


Science fiction and fantasy


Nobody knows how to reliably create "quality"--the definition of which will vary by person. Take a dozen of the top quality series on Netflix or streaming services generally and I'll probably be meh on at least half of them.

Add to that the fact that for many, TV, whether streaming or otherwise, is essentially background and they'll immediately cancel your service if all they have is a relative handful of prestige must-see TV.


> Nobody knows how to reliably create "quality"--the definition of which will vary by person.

Try different things. Don't be afraid to experiment. Don't be afraid to fail. Do things nobody's ever done before. Create new trends. Hire professionals so that every scene gives the users some level of satisfaction in terms of plot and aesthetics. For example, in a good comedy, each scene (if not each line) should at least bring the corners of your mouth slightly up.

Instead, Netflix is doing the opposite: recycle, recycle, recycle. This is maybe fine for some genres like romantic comedies for Netflix-and-chill, you kind of expect everything but it doesn't bother you. But for the rest, Netflix has become a symbol of mediocrity to the point that I explicitly choose only movies/shows without the N letter on them.


HBO seems to do it.


They do, but it's very expensive and very slow. That kind of development culture requires discipline and quality control.

People like to throw this 'you can't cater to everyone's tastes' bit whenever talking about culture/film/game development. But everyone knows there is fast food and there is michelin. The latter requires a lot of hard work, and it is very hard to replicate at scale.


Pixar? Sure their track record isn't 100%, but I'd say they know how to create quality, even if they don't always fully succeed at it.


> And yet for some reason for years they have been aiming for quantity and not quality.

Even if we were to assume a good quality, there is still too much quantity. Netflix drops new shows so often that they never have time breath or get legs. I may see an interesting trailer, and then a week later there's another trailer, and so on. There's just so much stuff.


I agree that the content is not very interesting (to me at least), they still seem to produce a ton of it though. But companies like Disney, Paramount etc. building their own platforms and withdrawing their content from other streaming services makes it hard for Netflix to compete. Especially for families Disney+ is much more attractive due to their large catalog of AAA titles. Netflix just can't compete with that it seems, and all their self-produced movies were at most B+ in my opinion, not a single blockbuster there. I think right now Disney+ is well positioned to take the market lead, they just need to acquire a few more studios (and maybe Netflix itself) and they will have a moat that's impossible to penetrate. Personally I would hope that the market will consolidate, it's just annoying to have content I'm interested in spread out over 5-6 platforms, all requiring separate subscriptions.


Netflix bores me to tears (I’m into stuff like Criterion and Kino) but I begrudgingly have to admit that they offer a ton of kids shows. Disney+ is better quality but they too don’t have a lot to offer, or didn’t three months ago, in terms of episodic kids entertainment.

Disney is also hoarding the giant catalog of classic or older films. Fox wasnt just XMen and Simpsons, they had been making films since the 30s. Seems like Disney is going to trickle out the old content slowly.


Netflix is 'all you can eat', and all you can eat is about quantity ('good enough'). Also, it is a given you are not going to like/want everything. The quantity is in such abundance that they try to please everyone somewhat. I suppose you could call it spreading.


No doubt about it. The question is for how long will 'all you can eat' be sustainable in the longer term. Only so long until everyone will have had their crappy experience, loses trust and/or desire to continue paying, brand becomes tarnished etc.

I'm not saying this is an end to Netflix - losing your competitive advantage and having others catch up doesn't put you out of the race. Their brand is huge.


Netflix really had a value proposition a few years ago before all the other players came in. A good selection of rotating movies and shows, sharing accounts with a good model (# of simultaneously running screens). This was way better than cable TV and more convenient than torrent.

Now it’s mostly quite mediocre content across services that easily cost $100+ a month, so we’re back to the old cable days in terms of cost and content and instead of switching channels we’re endlessly browsing the library for something interesting.

The consumers just aren’t complete idiots.

- lower quality productions (not the necessarily the cost, just not interesting)

- less good external content

- at the same time constantly increasing prices and/or charging for things that were free at a given tier

If you keep charging more for less, people eventually will get off their lazy asses and cancel the subscription.

One other thing that may have contributed: trying to keep users on the platform for long makes it more difficult to have good content left that hasn’t been watched.

Edit: formatting


>The consumers just aren’t complete idiots.

The consumers kinda are the idiots here. They know what they like, but they have no idea why the content is getting worse. Why shows are being pulled. Companies that had their content on Netflix realized they were facing an existential crisis.

Ever played Settlers of Catan and find out another player had 9/10 victory points? Everyone does everything in their power to not trade with that player, send the robber, and limit their chances. It's the same with Netflix. All other studios realized at some point Netflix would become so strong, even the royalties Netflix pays for their content would put them out of business permanently. There is no amount of money Netflix can pay for other studios content. Consumers only see the net effect of good shows going away, and imagining reasons why.


While it is a valid point, Id argue that Netflix could have survived this - they had billions of dollars to create original content, and then they did create it, but some how screwed it all up. There’s at best 1 or 2 good show and no good movie Netflix has made in years. And anything half decent they cancel mercilessly without giving it a chance. This is not just in the US. The comparison of original content quality between Netflix and other services in India for example is even more laughable.

In the end, Netflix is a company that used to be great and kinda made some of the most genius ideas to fight the Goliath but was undone by a single dude leading a team making poor choices on what content to make. 3 Adam Sandler movies for half a billion dollars? I’m assuming this is as big or a bigger blunder than Zillow, and was powered by stupid data science ideas as well, probably.


> they had billions of dollars to create original content

they had the wrong idea that original content is their strong point. It's not. It's disney's strong point.

Netflix should've used their dominant position to lobby for new rules to the game - prevent exclusivity of content! They should've lobbied gov't to mandate that studio productions of content be permanently untied to a streaming service, and be available to all players in the streaming space. Just like net neutrality, we might call this content neutrality.

Netflix is at it's core, a tech company that solves technical issues with streaming. They pivoted to content creation, and they aren't very good at it - sure they got a couple of hits, but they cannot possibly compete on this with actual movie studios that own IPs from a century ago to this day.


Netflix could have bought a few of the legacy companies. Amazon bought MGM, Netflix could have bought cbs/paramount, or ABC, for the cost of a series of the crown.


> and no good movie Netflix has made in years

That is very subjective. My wife and I really liked The power of the dog. And I am sure there are more.

Also subjective: watching Netflix every day (I do not) will end up in watching below par stuff. No service will be able to produce that much high quality content for everybody’s taste.


I mean I don’t know about screwed it up. You can’t expect any artist to just consistently produce pure hits. The creativity seems to come and go, the zeitgeist and the cultural context matter so much. Nobody (except, I would argue, Marvel) is able to be really consistent with their art. They were always doomed to fail producing their own content.


> 3 Adam Sandler movies for half a billion dollars?

Kind of a weird example when the adam sandler movie (uncut gems) was probably one of the few critical succeses of their recent original content.


That's not stupid consumers that's people not rightly giving a f what nonsense licensing setups requested by ip owners and enforced by a government monopoly on force. The consumer just wanted to watch the media, which is fair because they probably just spent 8 hours at some nonsense unnecessary job and would like to switch off... again.

No vote no power.


You can only blame IP laws so much. Someone has to fund the production of content.

If Netflix could just take what they wanted, nobody would make anything but disposable reality TV.


Stupid is probably the wrong word here; "clueless"? I personally think consumers are on the verge of reinventing TV channels, with each streaming service acting like a channel. Consumers, who liked that Netflix had so much content in one place, are slowly pushing time to go backward.


Great analogy, and it's what I think about every time I hop on Netflix.

The old Netflix was an absolute gold mine. There was sooooo much good content and almost none of it was their own. The place was overflowing with great movies from every genre. It had all these great movies because they were the only game in town and the studios hadn't yet identified them as a competitor. It was a novelty. "Hey sure, movies on the internet. Why not! Here's our entire back catalog. Go nuts."

Once everyone realized this wasn't a novelty the IP holders began to pull back. First it was increased rates, which meant Netflix could have fewer of the top items available for streaming at any given time. Fine, kind of annoying that I can't find everything I want anymore but there's still a lot of good stuff! Then the megacorps that own all of the studios began to develop their own platforms to cash in on the money train and stopped licensing their content to Netflix altogether. Instead they began to pile the IP up to be released exclusively on their own platforms. Netflix knew this was going to happen so they went absolutely nuts on the spending, trying to produce enough of their own content to fill the gap left by 60 years of the top IP that was (mostly) banished from their platform.

The spending didn't work because it turns out making high quality IP is really, really hard. Think of all the film and television IP created over the last 60 years. Not the hits, I'm talking about everything. Now think of the hits. Those are like, what, 1% of the total? Netflix can't fill their catalog to compete with who they used to be. It's not physically/creatively possible. That means they will never live up to the initial experience of using the site.

As a consumer, I'd prefer they shift to become something closer to HBO/Apple TV+. A company that focuses on high quality, carefully curated productions. At least then I would have a good reason to continue subscribing. As it is, I don't find much value in the endless stream of schlock they've been producing to try to fill in for the lost IP. Quantity doesn't have a quality all its own when it comes to entertainment.


Netflix is the one that got greedy and over estimated their position.

Serving video is an absolute commodity. They should have been getting pennies on the dollar if that. A simple distribution service for studios who should have been thought of as their customers. But no, making a steady, useful, profitable business is not enough.

Taking a big cut from an easily replaced service, and using the money to fund a direct competitor to their customers sure was something. Took a lot of chutzpah, is about the best I'll say for it.


>Ever played Settlers of Catan and find out another player had 9/10 victory points? Everyone does everything in their power to not trade with that player, send the robber, and limit their chances

This is why my group of friends stopped playing Catan after a while..


If only there was a way to what whatever soap 2 day you wanted.


I know a number of people who have just gone back to torrenting everything they care about (such as For All Mankind or Foundation) and are very unlikely to ever subscribe to a 2nd, 3rd, 4th streaming service.

They either picked netflix and have stayed with it at $22/mo or have changed from netflix to 1 other service like paramount+ or whatever, but the idea of paying $50-60-80 a month for more services on top of their residential broadband connection at $55-85 is a non-starter.


I'm seeing that a lot too. Netflix killed piracy with price and more importantly convenience. But the extreme fragmentation of the streaming market is driving people back to the torrents. They don't want to sign up somewhere for every new show that they hear about.

The industry is killing itself this way. Netflix is just the first to take the hit because they have the largest market saturation.


Soon there will be some service that bundles up all the streaming services into one service. They might even call it cable :p


I'm totally fine with spending $100+ per month on streaming. My issue is consistency.

Every streaming service had their own app which may or may not be available on my TV, tablet, phone or computer. The experience is varying on each device (e.g I can disable auto playing trailers for Netflix on my phone but not TV).

Then on top of that, each streaming service requires additional complexity (logins, setting up profiles) and has varying UI (search, continue watching, subtitle and quality control).

It's significantly less hassle for me to just Jellyfin + *arr services than try to manage this on a daily basis.


Interesting to call out Netflix for high price and then the examples for torrenting are Apple shows which is much cheaper.


My assumption with appletv is that you need half their ecosystem to even have the honour of giving them money to watch content.


This is basically me. I have the 15 dollar tier of Netflix and then my friends and i share a Plex hosted at a buddy's house where we get whatever content we want.


I could be in the minority, but I'm perfectly content with just having Netflix. There's a long backlog of shows that I haven't had a chance to watch, and they keep adding new ones.

Sure it would be nice if I had HBO max, hulu, disney, apple, but honestly I don't think I'd have time for them.

How many hours of streaming video can a person possibly watch that one would find stuff on Netflix not adequate?

Or is this more about keeping up with friends and families and what they watch?


> is this more about keeping up with friends and families and what they watch?

Yeah. I love discussing shows with friends and family and I’ve been finding it harder and harder to watch shows together or watch them later on our own time to discuss them later.

For example, I recently watched Pachinko and would highly recommend it but none of my friends have Apple TV so they can’t watch it (unless they pirate it)


Apple TV+ is $5/month. People used to pay $100+/month for cable and satellite TV. If people do not want to pay, then it must not be about the money. They even have the choice of easily just paying for one streaming service per month, and not spending more than $15 per month.


I plan on being feeble if I live long enough to become 80 years old. I plan on watching the streaming backlog then.

Right now I have projects, road-trips, other things to do....


Any reason you don’t do, say 3 to 4 months of each service so you cycle through 3 or 4 services in a year to see everything that interests you


This is the approach to take now IMHO.

We generally wait for an entire series before starting to watch anyway (so we can watch at a pace we want, rather than having it strung out over weeks) so it is not much hardship to just sign up to a service for a month or two at a time and then "bleed it dry" of things you are watching then move on to another service.


Just put Netflix on hold for few months and pick a another service for that time. This is what I do and works great.


I keep hearing this $100+ argument all the time, but do you really need all the services simultaneously? As you point out, there isn't that much to watch. So just unsubscribe for a few months, let the new content build up and safe money in the meantime.


Well no, but I also don’t want to constantly be switching just to watch one or two shows. The original benefit of Netflix was that you could have a service with a decent selection, no hassle.

If I click unsubscribe, that’s more or less final.


That wouldn’t work for me at all. I’ve been rotating around all the services, one at a time, since sometime last year. I quit Netflix for the first time since ~2007, last September. Nothing watchable that I hadn’t seen. I resubscribed for the last season of Ozark. When that was over, I looked around for what good stuff they’d added in the last 7 months and found squat. Promptly canceled again.

I’m fast approaching the time when I won’t be subscribed to anything most of the time, and occasionally sign up for one to watch one show.


While that makes a lot of sense, that's a difficult sell when you have multiple people in a household.


Yeah, this is not rocket science. Subscribe to one service at a time. Switch to another service when you want to watch something different. It's not like the old days where switching from cable to satellite TV was a huge hassle.


I don't think you're wrong, but to over-simplify what you're saying: "Netflix took my $100/mo cable bill and $40/mo Blockbuster habit and turned it into a $10/mo fee. Now I'm not getting all that entertainment for the now $15.50/mo fee."

Again, you're right: before the other players came to streaming, Netflix had an amazing value proposition. Why? Because "the other players" didn't realize that streaming would displace cable, DVD purchases, and Blockbuster rentals so they licensed their content to Netflix a lot cheaper than they would have if they'd realized that. Yes, there was a golden era of Netflix before "the other players" realized that streaming was the future. Over the long run, it's logical to think that they weren't going to just want less money while you got the same quality content.

I would disagree that it's mediocre content across the streaming services. I do think Netflix has invested too much in mediocre content and that's biting them (as the article notes). However, we have so much amazing content being produced.

I also think that "across services that easily cost $100+ a month" is a bit unfair too. $15.50 Netflix, $8 Disney+, $6 Hulu, $15 HBO Max, $5 Apple TV+, Paramount+ $5. That's $55. "Oh, I don't want ads so it's $13 for Hulu and $10 for Paramount+." Fair, but it's not like cable TV was cheaper, it had practically zero content compared to these streaming services, and more than 25% of its time was ads.

I think a lot of people don't really remember how there was almost nothing to watch back then. I think people's memory of the earlier days of Netflix streaming is colored by the fact that they went from "there's nothing on TV" to "OMG, Netflix has so much to stream! This is amazing!" Part of the issue is that we've gotten really accustomed to having so much to watch available. Even if Netflix were giving us just as much quality as they were when they were a "good value", people's perception of what is a good value has changed.

Netflix is still way better than cable in most ways (live sports being a big exception). It's also way cheaper. But it's also not unique anymore. When Netflix launched (and for many years after), we were all thrilled that we could watch 20-25% of the content we wanted via this one service. That was amazing. However, I think our expectations have changed: we think we should have access to all the content we want - and for cheap.

For ages, people complained "why do I have to pay for a cable package that includes X which I don't watch! I should be able to select services a-la-carte!" Now that we're offering services a-la-carte, it's becoming clear that the real complaint was that people just wanted to pay less money for the same content.

I think that Netflix launched and was such a huge jump from the old experience of cable TV and people expected that $10-15 to keep jumping from 20% to 40% to 70% to 90% of what they wanted to watch for one low price. I do think Netflix has had missteps along the way including pouring money into a lot of stuff that ends up being background noise rather than great television. However, with others entering streaming, they were going to keep their own shows for their services more often than not and there would be more competition for high-quality content. Disney explicitly went after Star Wars and Marvel to build a content portfolio they could leverage and bought Fox and its huge library of TV and movie productions (both the historical library and ongoing) as well as Hulu (pending them buying out Comcast's 33% which they're entitled to do).

I guess I wonder: if you could go back in time (knowing what you know now) and take control of Reed Hastings, what would you do differently (with the caveat that you do need to create a business that will make money)? My suggestions would be things like: don't keep throwing money at low-quality content that people "watch" but don't really watch. Just because you can measure streaming hours of a program doesn't mean that people like it. I might suggest buying a content company, but that seems like it would be a hard thing to do. It'd give them owner-economics over a large back catalogue, but even in 2016 Netflix was a $40-70B company. Who could you buy without giving away half (or almost all) of your company? 2016 you're talking $40B for Viacom without CBS. Disney would be $150B+. In 2016, AT&T made its deal for Time Warner for $85B. Disney bought Fox for $71B in 2017 - minus the US stations and Sky. If you go before 2016, Netflix is a $25-30B company in 2014 and a $5B company in 2012. They don't have the money. Do you try to negotiate even longer-term third-party content deals for streaming in 2007-2010 before third-parties realize that you're going to be cannibalizing their business? Get Time Warner to give you their catalogue for a 20-year run - giving you a very long time before they can compete with HBO streaming? Do the same to others?

To me, the big misstep seems to be that Netflix invested too much in low-quality filler that shows up as "viewing hours", but isn't quality viewing hours that keep customers loving your product. It's more like settling hours. Beyond that, I think a lot of it is just that people want access to everything for less money and realistically that wasn't going to happen. But maybe you have other ways they could have gone - without saying "keep spending more money, keep losing it, die a hero."


I think all your points are spot on. One thing to add is that we are in the golden age of content (it takes some volume to discover on good shows), and it is probably coming to end as cheap money goes away. At no point in history has so much money been spent on content creation.

At 17B/year Netflix alone spends ~$48/year for every single person in the US. Prime spends 13B, Apple 6B, Disney 33B, Warner (HBO, etc...) 18B. Or put another way ~$250/person in the US/year on content.

Even if accounting for world wide distribution, these numbers are just not sustainable from an investment standpoint.


Disney also has the benefit of being able to makes billions in movie theater that pays for content before if ever gets to streaming. On the other hand, how many people watched Loki and WandaVision to have context for Dr. Strange? It’s the famous “flywheel” that Disney has been talking about since the 60s.


Very good points.

I’m not sure if there’s something Netflix could have done honestly. They had a technology moat with video streaming tech at a time when everyone else focused on cable but video streaming and streaming apps became a commodity over ten years or so.

To expect them to also become a great studio company when they started out with the tech moat would be a bit of Silicon Valley hubris. It works for a few like Amazon but even Amazon is facing similar issues where online shopping tech is now commoditized and rivals have better depth in retail itself.


I think the issue of low-quality filler being the issue is debatable. House of Cards or Orange is the New Black hasn't stopped the platform from sinking to where it is now. But as long as people are watching something, they're subscribed to the platform. The real problem is a lack of shows with nine seasons and plenty of shows that got canceled two seasons in. Viewers will take a chance on a new show, binge watch the two seasons, then end up blankly staring at the Now Playing screen and this hollow feeling of Netflixlessness - that listless feeling you get when your life was previously consumed by a show that you've now caught up to, so you have nothing to watch.

The worst thing the service can do is force viewers back to that New Playing screen, and just hope they find something before giving up, disgusted at your library's lack of content. Netflix never did conquer the Now Playing page. If I don't have a show that someone else has promoted to me, I'm not opening the Netflix app, that page is where dreams of just watching some TV go to die. Not for lack of trying, mind you, they've run a large number of experiments on that page, it's just a difficult problem when you don't have the content your users really want. It's thoroughly unsatisfying a UX, especially if you can't find something before your attention span gets bored of trying to find something to watch, and you switch away entirely. To Fortnight or TikTok, as the article suggests.

Spin-off shows don't generally do well on network TV, but things are different for streaming, and mediocre content set in the same universe as existing shows, for easy transference of viewing keeps users on your platform. Even if viewers are rewatching The Office for the Nth time. Because that show has nine seasons, Netflix might as well just be The Office streaming program and it would keep subscribers just fine. You're right that they're "settling" hours, but not everyone is a TV show snob. Netflix was never going to afford to be at ABC/Paramount/Disney level but it's trying to play there and make shows that rivaled their quality - and cost - that killed them.


> To me, the big misstep seems to be that Netflix invested too much in low-quality filler that shows up as "viewing hours"

Reflecting on that: I’ve started to reduce my consumption all together. Bought Blu-ray’s of one or two shows I was interested in and that have been around long enough to buy at a reasonable price for all season (though I won’t bother with that anymore after relocating to a different region).

But the biggest change: turning away from the TV in the evening hours. Back to educating myself or gaming.


> if you could go back in time (knowing what you know now) and take control of Reed Hastings, what would you do differently

Is that a new series?


Netflix is doing what they can to survive in the face of the mob.

They're the outsider compared to all these old boys studios and copyright holders. The old boys are literally the mob. And when the mob saw how much cake Netflix was taking, they said "Nope". Given this, I feel like Netflix has less and less of a choice when it comes to what externally-produced movies/shows they offer. They're just trying to survive. And keep their kneecaps.


Given Netflix comp levels, "trying to survive" might be overplaying it. The reason for the schadenfreude mentioned in the article is the massive cost inflation Netflix spending levels created.

I think a lot of the discussion in this thread could be summed up as, maybe Netflix should have been content to be a low margin tech supplier to the studios rather than try and spend it's way to becoming a new Disney. A lot of tech firms are built off the back of the fact that it seems to be harder for other industries to learn how to be a tech firm than the other way around. Streaming video is clearly one of those cases where it's the opposite and that fact had been hidden for a long time by the flood of QE funny money.


I ditched my Netflix suscription and have found a much better replacement combo:

- Criterion Channel for the good stuff (cheaper than Netflix, too.)

- Tubi for guilty crap... and some good movies here and there too (ad-supported.)

For a while I tried Mubi but it was clear I'm not the target audience. I was watching 1-2 movies a month, tops.


I never understood why Netflix is assumed to be more convenient. There are illegal streaming websites with better UI and user experience than Netflix.


So the problem with media conglomerates (including big studios) is they want predictable returns. More specifically, they want a formula. Let me introduce you to Save the Cat [1]. This book has become so influential that you can read this book and then watch pretty much any movie and you'll be able to tick off everything in the movie to this structure.

It's why studios love sequels and franchises. They have a built-in audience ie predictable returns.

The biggest innovation we've had in this industry is the advent of highly serialized TV shows, made possibly in large part due to (at first) DVRs and then streaming. 30 years ago it just wasn't possible or practical to do somethin glike this when people had to tune in at a set time. The audience drop off would've been too severe.

For me this has been the true Golden Age of TV. But movies? It's all superhero films now and dull, dull, dull for the most part.

So the lesson Netflix is learning here is you can't just scale up a content business by throwing money at it. Studios would love if it this were true. Netflix has thrown many billions at this problem and not spent it wisely. You can't just write a check for $10 billion and become HBO.

Movies in particularly just don't make economic sense without theater releases. We've seen this durin gthe pandemic with movies that have skipped theaters out of necessity. It just doesn't work.

I agree Netflix needed to create original content given the inevitable "me too" streaming platforms from all the studios would otherwise rob Netflix of their catalog. But they may have just saddled themselves with so much debt that they're forced into ever-increasing sub prices because of decreasing subscriber numbers, which just accelerates the need for more price hikes and so on.

Ironically this is exactly what is killing cable TV.



I would add that "a formula" doesn't mean it's bad. I regularly drank beer since like when I was 14 until when I was like 35 or something? I do it way less now but still sometimes drink beer.

My favorite style changes. Sometime I just drink a new one because like dopamine hits and I get excited about the potential novelty and discovery. But it's beer, and I think there's nothing wrong with it. From bud light to like whatever quadruppel or super IPA monstrosity someone in the Bay Area decided to brew and that may work as an antiseptic, I like them all. There's a formula and I like it, and I also like Marvel movies. Maybe I'm a basic bastard and I'm making a cardinal sin by spending my money on non innovative things and I should be only watching surreal pieces shot in a single take where at least one actor committed suicide or got addicted to opioids while shooting the movie. Don't get me wrong, those are great too and specially the followup documentaries. I also can then participate in high stakes intelectual debates. But that's a formula too.

And maybe I should drink sours but fuck that.

But yeah I think your analysis is great but I also think it's important to say that milking successful formulas is not wrong or morally reprehensible. If you scam people or whatever while doing yeah that's bad, but letting the chicken lay the golden eggs and not changing anything about it is pretty much ok in my hierarchy of sins.


I can't match the near-unhinged brilliance of the above comment, but I'll add that many meditation traditions encourage serenity by inspecting the details of the ordinary instead of a constant grasping for new stimulation.


Equating whatever random super hero drivel is being shoved down your throat to meditation is quite the stretch.


It's also of note that no meditation tradition drinks sours.


Agreed. Every once in a while I read a comment on here that makes me wish I could read a whole book in its style.




> From bud light to like whatever quadruppel or super IPA monstrosity someone in the Bay Area decided to brew and that may work as an antiseptic

On this note, Pliny the Elder (the highest rated IPA in the Bay Area) used to be hard to find but recently is just everywhere, and it turns out it tastes horrible. But it’s like single-origin horrible. Like drinking the highest quality grass clippings.


Yeah tell me about it. I had a good one in the cafe in Point Reyes where it was on the tap but the last few were bottled and it was not that good.


Another commenter described what I meant using what I think is a more accurate term: assembly line.

My point is that creating original content is a creative endeavor that doesn’t naturally scale. MrBeast is obviously successful but that doesn’t mean you can just cookie cutter another 100 MrBeasts. That’s not how it works.


Why aren't there independent studios creating content and selling to the highest bidder among the streaming camps?


I mean you probably can, but art and engineering are more of a spectrum if anything. Even if the CCP seizes all of Apples assets in China can they create another iPhone? I don't think so. If part of that is getting people to pay 1000 bucks for it.


To vaguely respond with an analogy, when I don't care what I'm drinking I don't drink Budweiser, I drink water.

It's good to not be insufferable in constantly policing oneself to follow the trend. sure. But watching Marvel movies isn't the only alternative.


I kinda wonder how long movies will continue make economic sense, at all.

What we call movies are 1h30 or more of continuous contents, and in this day and age this becomes an increasingly long time to be stuck in one place doing one thing. If it’s a full hobby, like pottery or bordering why not, but for “casual” people I feel the proposition is less and less attractive.


This view seems to be contradicted by the extent to which people binge-watch shows, which involves way more than 90 minutes of continuous contents.


Binging happens on your terms, you can stop and resume on smaller units of time (e.g. 1h for western tv shows, 20 min for anime).

Worse case if you’re disrupted is you’d restart the eps you were on at a later and you’d lose less than an hour of watch time. Current movies go up to 3h…

I see as the same paradox as people watching Tiktok shorts for hours. Yes, in aggregate it could be more than several movies stuck together, but it’s order of magnitude less binding and requires less commitment.


That’s a short ass movie


I was curious, since I have been watching the "100 Films To See before You Die" and so many older films seem to clock in under 90 minutes (to be sure there are plenty of exceptions).

Just a handful of films under 90 minutes:

"Toy Story", "High Noon", "Rashomon", "This is Spinal Tap", "Frankenstein" (and "Bride of"), "Umberto D", "My Neighbor Totoro", "Run Lola Run", "Duel", "Rope"...


Netflix has worked to infer predictable returns by using ratings and habits from its 222MM subscribers. They model potential market size against production and marketing costs, assess risk, and make decisions informed by all of it. Lots that can go right and wrong, but it’s a solid approach.


Except they fail in the execution. I appreciate that Netflix puts a red N on content that is Not Good.


I like The Last Kingdom a lot and have watched Russian Doll, Rise of Empires, and Roman Empire through, but tastes vary and inference is difficult.


All we've done is recreate cable TV on a new medium, with broader access of service providers.

Streaming services are equivalent to MVNOs on cellular networks.


Days of our Lives? Highly serialized, been running since 1965.


Bubbling customers in one or two genres of content with the addition of some "trending" original series that Netflix is pushing at the time. Their support suggests creating multiple profiles to avoid bubbling. You can't even delete/replace/reset main profile - just need to skip it all the time.

Most of original content is just crap produced to fill the library. Netflix creates more and more titles, not watching material. They are cancelling their own shows with such pace that I started avoiding investing time in their new content, assuming they will promptly fuck it up.

Abundance of unnecessary sex scenes. It's almost like watching bad porn: -Ma'am, have you called about cable TV not working? (oh, they're gonna bang now); -Oh, I'm stuck with my head in the washing machine (he's gonna bang her now); -Teacher asks student to stay after class? (banging in 3.. 2...); Opening Netflix (ridiculous, out-of-place sex scenes no matter the content). Just create "soft porn" category already and let people choose.

Production aiming at 100% engagement, giving viewer no time to think. Whatever the genre, every movie or show is unnecessarily action-packed like "Speed" (1994) or "Crank" (2006) making watching feel like work, not relax. Refreshing, thought-welcoming productions like Apple's "Severance" have little place on Netflix platform.

> "This show was so good I couldn't stop watching. But would I watch it again? Hey, this wasn't good at all, I got played"


It's seems clear to my family and friends that they have some sort of checklist for writers that includes garbage like mandatory regular sex scenes. In my case, they have _finished_ a tiny tiny percentage of their shows. They tend to string viewers along with contrived new-but-very-similar problems each season, and then just cancel once viewership gets bored. No thanks, give me a show that has an ending.

I think Disney has been better with their series in this regard. I've been watching a few shows that were planned with many seasons in mind, but instead of abruptly pulling the plug when viewership was lower than expected they gave them a final season that writers have been using to wrap things up really well. I can start a new show from them with a bit more confidence it'll get finished.


The shows I watch on Netfix don't have this property? There is some sex, but definitely not that much.

Not that netflix is super good, but just that stuff I watch or get recommended is much different then yours.


It's possible it caters to their watching habits. I don't get those shows recommended either.


> Abundance of unnecessary sex scenes. It's almost like watching bad porn:

Weird. I've always felt Netflix moved away from sex scenes/nudity compared to something like HBO. It was so clearly different I thought it was a Netflix thing to avoid it.


You're so right about the sex scenes. Just before pandemic I saw Caligula. Back in the day it was notorious for the gratuitous sex and violence, and now it felt like yet another HBO show. I haven't had Netflix for a long time, sounds like it's the same but worse scripts now.


I was expecting to see some discussion over Netflix's depreciation models, which is (apparently) over 5 years, 20% per year.

While Disney (and other producers) do something like 90% depreciation over the first year, the famous "Hollywood accounting" that gets a lot of criticism.

But "Hollywood accounting" might be closer to the truth than Netflix's model. 20% of the movie "Bright" (released in 2017, the Will Smith + Orc buddy-cop movie) is still being "paid for" on Netflix's books this year.


Since Netflix's growth has slowed a bit, the effects of depreciation are now going to start hurting it. But it seems like everything discussed in this article is about the fundamental viewership issue, which might be worse.


> over Netflix's depreciation models

Amortization - Netflix treats content as assets, and recognizes on average 90% of amortized expenses in the four years after first broadcast. Net revenue looks better, but cash flow and balance sheets are still going to reflect outlays, which can often occur before first broadcast.

The "Hollywood accounting" recognizes 90% of expenses in the first year to artificially reduce net profit, which in turn means less taxes and royalties during the year when most revenue for content is recognized. Netflix can make a case that content continues to make an impact on subscription revenue over a larger window of time, and so expenses should equally be recognized in relation to the income statement.

Netflix also regularly updates their amortization schedule as trends shift.


> Netflix can make a case that content continues to make an impact on subscription revenue over a larger window of time, and so expenses should equally be recognized in relation to the income statement.

How many people are getting Netflix subscriptions to watch Bright (2017 Will Smith+Orc movie) this year?

Or from a Disney perspective, how many people are getting Disney+ to watch Coco (2017 Day of the Dead 3d cartoon)?


It’s even harder to account for because once you paid for D+ to watch Encanto or whatever, it now costs you nothing to rewatch Coco, but the ability to do so might be why you remain subscribed.

So where do you allocate the $8?


Motivation to start a subscription is irrelevant. It's what people spend their time watching that matters, and people are still watching "Bright" and "Coco" many years after release.


That’s interesting. And probably astute. One off movies not part of a larger series have significantly shorter periods of relevance. It doesn’t make sense to spread it out over 5 years at all.


It's clear they are just outclassed by Disney+. People thought the hard part was creating the streaming platform, the content was mostly licensed with a few exclusives. It's now clear that exclusive content is everything. Disney have new content every month (ie. Moon Knight -> Obi-Wan Kenobi) and high quality movies like Luca and Turning Red.

Netflix's strategy seems to be just get big name actors and mediocre creatives and hope it works. The Adam Project might have a lot of viewers but how many of those are just because it's there? How many people would say "The Adam Project is my favorite movie" and how does that compare to Luca?

Netflix has been essentially making the equivalent of direct to DVD movies as its whole strategy while Disney has been bringing their best. They are becoming The Asylum of the streaming world.


I feel like Netflix always kind of had an issue with poor taste. They have crappy reality shows and pseudo-documentaries about how the aliens build pyramids. A metric fuckton of content that caters to people with below average intelligence. In addition to this content being unhealthy because you either don't learn anything, or are actively being fed falsehoods, I think it just gives the platform a poor image.

It's kind of sad because Netflix had over 5 billion in net income last year, and 30B in total revenue. Suppose that Netflix can afford to spend 15-20B on content a year. You could do so much with that money. I mean, 20B is 20 thousand million dollars. Assuming you take just 5 billion and fund indie movies at 20M a pop, you could produce 250 indie movies a year. If they were smart about it, they would give scholarships to kids coming out of movie school. Create movie making contests. Give a lot of fresh young creative people a shot, and keep funding the creatives that produce the better reviewed content... Like, you know... A meritocracy of sorts...

Most people coming out of movie school never get to produce movies. There's just a lot of wasted talent out there. If you have tens of billions of dollars, there's no excuse for producing shit content year after year.


I suspect the data teams have a lot of sway at netflix right at the top exec levels. I know this anecdotally since I am close to someone who has approached Netflix and was told it wont work for them.

Their reasoning was as simple as it can get. Their data showed what shows people liked in terms of genres and runtimes.

That might seem reasonable for short term gains until you realise how silly it is for longevity.


Blind allegiance to data is a grave mistake. Numbers are meaningless without context. But if you misunderstand the context that is producing the numbers, you end up being much worse informed than without the data at all. I fear that people take data and whatever default interpretation as gospel and are loathe to go against it. Faux objectivity is an acute danger that we must all be on guard against.


>A metric fuckton of content that caters to people with below average intelligence.

The big question is how big is the fraction of people who are below average intelligence. Depending on that ratio, it could make sense to produce content for that part of the population ...

Additionally, highly intelligent people earn more money and don't have to buy content wholesale. They can afford to buy movies directly which means that each view of intelligent content is worth much more. Now, how can Netflix integrate that into their platform? There won't be any bargains left. Even young talented creatives will demand what they are worth.

There have to be different streaming services for different quality levels. Netflix has decided to serve some fraction of the bell curve and leaves other fractions to others.


I'd say part of the problem here is that consciously or not, people tend to follow influencers, and flock to brands that are more aspirational (e.g. Apple). If you cater specifically to people who like mediocre content, you lose the interest of the people with better taste. Your brand then becomes a brand associated with people that have poor taste, and eventually, even people with poor taste see that the brand is not cool, and they leave too.


> The big question is how big is the fraction of people who are below average intelligence.

Allow me to be cheeky and save you the suspense: it's half.


> The big question is how big is the fraction of people who are below average intelligence.

George Carlin figured this one out.


Indie movies are absolutely notorious for their habit of appealing to low intelligence people, it's practically their main market. They don't have much budget to tell an interesting story with, and are often being written by grant funded people without much experience and who are just desperate to make a movie (any movie) so they end up relying a lot on faux depth and complicated BS to make the movie seem like it has more to say than it really does. Critics lap that stuff up but most people who just want to be entertained with a risky but well made idea that doesn't puff itself up, the bigger studios are where you'll find them.


The quoted "competing exec" is 100% wrong when he says Netflix is making a mistake ending shows after three seasons. Shows need to be pitched and run for three seasons max, period. Everyone has a life other than the show that's "hot" for the moment, from cast to writers to the source of money - the viewers. Shows that get dragged out inevitably suck.

And yeah, go to weekly releases.


That would be fine if the storylines were wrapped up at the end of season three but shows not only fail to do this, they often end on a cliffhanger and then the series gets cancelled. I don't know about other people, but I wait until a show has been on for years before bothering with checking them out. There are a few that I knew were continued as graphic novels, which I thought was a decent compromise but if I know there's an unresolved cliff hanger and a bunch of half finished storylines, I don't bother starting the show.

A three year series is fine but treat it like that in the third season before too many people's behaviors change and it starts to become difficult to get their attention to new series because they fear it ending suddenly without resolution.


> Shows need to be pitched and run for three seasons max

with this as the case, they’ll likely be wrapped at the end of S03.

There’s not much to be done if they’re cancelled before S03.


> fear it ending suddenly without resolution

I don't mean to sound like some "well akshuallyyy"ing Comic Book Guy figure, but you must realise it's not real life? If it's a Poirot-type mystery where the entire payoff lies in the resolution, then I totally understand, but for a regular TV show I can't see why you would enjoy the episodes any less simply because it might end without resolving all your questions. There's no real suspense - it's not real people, it's just a bunch of people performing in front of a camera. Being distressed about 'what happened to them?' seems, well, puzzling to me.


Almost all the shows i watch over and over and again are ones with 7+ seasons,

90's star trek (tng ds9 voy) all 7 seasons, MAS*H 12 seasons, Frasier 11 season, Scrubs 8 season (I skip season 9 and refuse to acknowledge its existance), Red Dwarf 8 season (+ more after the revival decades later), X-Files 11 seasons, How I Met Your Mother 9 seasons, Freinds 10 seasons, Stargate SG1 10 seasons, three seasons is to little to grow a fallowing and not enough for you to rewatch


Some other ones I watch again from time to time: Big Bang Theory, NYPD Blue, Supernatural, Cheers, ER, Law & Order, Blue Bloods, Waltons, Parenthood, Little House on the Prairie, Cosby Show, West Wing, MaGyver, Seinfeld, LoveJoy, Rumpole of the Bailey


> How I Met Your Mother 9 seasons

Luckily the last season only has 22 episodes!

A lot of series jump the shark of they get dragged out for long. Even worse, if it's a slow decline, it kills rewatchability. Some manage, but it goes wrong more often than not. And especially if your concept does not lend itself to a lot of seasons (like Chernobyl, for example), you should stop while it's still good.


HIMYM was still going strong beyond the 3rd season. People don’t like the ending, but seasons 4, 5, 6, and 7 were damn great.


Under that rule of thumb, The Wire and Babylon 5 would never have been made.

And from a more recent sample, The Expanse would not have been allowed to get to the end of the story arc.

All three have a few things in common. A strong cast of good-but-not-a-star actors.[ß] Writers who knew what they were doing. A story that they wanted to tell, and knew how long it would take. And above all: the integrity to end the series once the story was told. No stretching into infinity with useless rehashing or replaying of old hits. No resets. No desperate attempts to magically reinvent itself.

You pointed this out yourself: Shows that get dragged out inevitably suck.

ß: Idris Elba became a star later.

(EDIT: grammar)


Another thing I've noticed, they should only do about a dozen episodes per year. Anything more than that, and a much higher percentage are filler.


Netflix paid $500 million for Seinfeld, a show that ended 25 years ago, that has constant reruns since, which best seasons are past the first three and that they themselves would have probably cancelled after the first one due to low viewership.


How about the show keeps going for as long as it’s good? Arbitrary time boxes on shows seems silly, some shows are great for 10+ seasons, would suck to lose that because we decided that wasn’t possible


The problem with American TV is that almost everything is unbounded. Some shows manage to keep things going. Others jump the shark.

It’s not that having 10 seasons is bad. But many shows tell the story they wanted to tell in much less time. At which point you should just stop.

Some formats are interesting though like American Horror Story. It’s more like an anthology. Different story each season. Some actors might return with different roles.

Dr Who is also interesting since the mechanism for “reboots” is built in to the character.

Or go the Disney route and expand the individual character stories like they are doing with Marvel and Star Wars.


I'm a fan of shows or movies being as long as they need to be. To Old To Die Young is a great example of a show that is bold and does this. Episodes range anywhere from 30 to 90+ minutes.

That said, for shows that have a continuous, overreaching storyline I'm highly suspect of the writers having no idea how the thing is gonna end. Sure, in some lucky cases it works out super well, but in other cases it gets us unsatisfying stuff that undermines the show like with Lost or Battlestar Galactica. Come up with the story arch and tell the story. Please don't keep stretching the thing out endlessly and end it when it's bad or the crew wants to move on. That's fine with shows that have disconnected episodes, but for modern shows or can ruin the whole thing and leaves me feel like I wasted a ton of time.


Other studios do "episode at a time" pilots, Netflix does "season at a time" pilots. Pretty much everyone misunderstands; and thinks a whole season implies more seasons.


But that's a problem. Watching a whole season makes you more invested in the show, so you're pissed off when it gets cancelled.

I also agree with OP that encouraging binge watching is not good. Netflix pumped out more content than any cable TV package I've ever had in the past, but by allowing binge-watching people binge and then get bored and say Netflix has no content.

If they spread out these shows it would be healthier for the viewers and would create a perception of more content.


> by allowing binge-watching people binge and then get bored and say Netflix has no content.

People don't say that Netflix has "no content" because they binge watch. People say that because Netflix does genuinely have dramatically less content than it did 8-10 years ago, because of the proliferation of competing streaming services.

If Netflix still had access to all the content it has hosted over the years, people wouldn't be making those complaints.


> But that's a problem. Watching a whole season makes you more invested in the show, so you're pissed off when it gets cancelled.

This is because consumers have been conditioned since last century to assume this is how things should be. Netflix is trying to create a new [better] experience, and this is how they are going about it. Pilots of shows suck! Almost always the second episode the characters are more realistic, more developed. Sure, it hurts when the season gets pulled, but it was a much better experience during the run. Why say it's a problem? It's just "different" from what you personally expect.


If they release it piecemeal, I'll just wait longer to resubscribe to their services. If something is on HBO that I really want to watch, I won't subscribe to it until the season is either entirely wrapped up or at least will be within the month of the subscription.


This is not a good comparison, because except in very few cases, the audience of a pilot is not the general public. In fact, the general public will never have the chance to see the pilot unless it's picked up, and in that case they'll still have to wait until the entire season is filmed.

By contrast, Netflix uses the viewership ratings from the first season to determine whether to renew for a second season.


I agree, milking shows usually ruins them. On the other hand, if they are great shows that last a long time you can gain a loyal audience. This seems to be how HBO has found so much success- Sopranos (never lost quality, even by the end), Curb, the Wire, etc. Although, GOT got milked out terribly. I think the hard part is just deciding which shows to drag on- and being based on a story that already has an ending helps guard against plot degradation.


GOT wasn't milked. It outran the unfinished source materials and then the director/producers D&D "phoned it in" because they started working on Star Wars.

And seasons are so short that even the bad seasons weren't a lot of TV.


It does seem like they had an outline for GRRM’s planned ending, but I doubt he was just going to have all the characters join forces and become a zombie fighting show.


GOT had a lot of problems but dragging content out definitely wasn’t one of them


Some kid-oriented shows seem to get by just fine, albeit their story lines don't necessarily connect. Sponge Bob, and Big City Greens are two of my favorite kid shows with a ton of episodes. Maybe I just like kid shows...


seasons are iffy measurement. episodes or hours is better. one season of star trek used to be 20+ episodes. no adays lots of shows are only 8, 10, 12 episodes.

tell the story you want to tell, with a satisfying ending. book and run the show for all of it.

no open ended shows that will run until it lives.lo h enough to suck. no shows canceled before their story is complete


I helped drive that subscriber loss!

The mistake for Netflix was the price increase - I've had a bunch of online video subscriptions kicking around, and when I got the notification that prices were going up, it served as a reminder that I really wasn't getting much value out of Netflix at the current price, so it made zero sense to put up with a price increase. This actually made me cancel Hulu while I was at it.

It definitely doesn't help that it's about 99% certain that if there's a mainstream movie you want to watch, Netflix won't have it.

No regrets, haven't felt like I was missing anything. After the pandemic the last thing I want to do is spend more time shut indoors staring at a screen.

One comment about the article:

> While Netflix has taken small steps to evolve its release model, particularly with unscripted shows, it refuses to experiment with weekly releases on its original scripted shows. One exec at rival streamer I talked with yesterday believes this is a huge mistake, if only because it makes it harder for Netflix to build those reliable franchises it so desperately needs more of.

The only thing dumber than this idea is adding commercials, which they're planning, so I assume they'll also be dumb enough to start listening to idiots telling them to do weekly releases.


> The only thing dumber than this idea is adding commercials, which they're planning...

I will immediately cancel any service that has advertisements. One of them (I think Amazon) did not immediately show the video I asked for, but a preview of another video they think I might be interested in. Even that got my delete finger twitching.


> I helped drive that subscriber loss!

> […]

> when I got the notification that prices were going up, it served as a reminder that I really wasn't getting much value out of Netflix at the current price

A perfectly reasonable reaction. Netflix is still generally my primary streaming service, but mainly because the others are either a terrible UX for my setup (Hulu), won’t ever get me as a customer for ethical reasons (Amazon), or have content/catalog models like Netflix, only smaller catalogs (basically everything else that isn’t a cable provider).

Netflix becoming a studio was great when it still offered licensed content I love. I could watch their originals and my favorites and things I’d put off watching. Now it feels like I have an HBO subscription I never asked for, where the only thing they offer is original content I don’t want to sift through to find out if it’s worthwhile.


I quit because I didn't like how all of their shows pushed an ideological message. I'm quite left leaning on most issues, but Netflix writers appear to believe that preaching progressive messages is all that's required to make a compelling narrative. If they had the compelling narrative too it might be more tolerable, but they don't.


Do you have any examples?


In the children sitcom 'No good Nick' a female chef ignores feedback from her employee by accusing him of 'mansplaining'. The daughter accuses the white dad of 'cultural approriation' when he suggests taco Tuesday for the restaurant. And that was only the first minutes of one episode.


And that’s more extreme on Netflix than other channels? White Lotus on HBO touched every woke topic in existence and was enjoyable. It’s the content that matters not how it leans.


It is really funny to see comments like GP while netflix hosts Chappelle, tells its workers to leave if they don't want to work on projects they disagree with [1], and gets praised for it by the likes of republicans like Musk [2] who claim to be about free speech and what have you until they turn techno-fascist [3].





If anything this validates those complaints. They are course correcting. Wouldn’t need a memo like that if their content wasn’t leaning to one side.

The only reason Chapelle is on Netflix is because one of the CEOs is a huge fan. There was a lot of internal pushback.


Try She-ra and Shadow and Bone with a kid... and note the paucity of straight characters in the first or the sweaty gay sex scenes in the second. Deemed not just appropriate, but seemingly an end-goal for children to see. At least they rate them as TV-14, but kids won't let that stop you.

Netflix finally implemented rating selection filters for profiles, but a few years too late for us. Try taking those shows away after they've already been watching them.


Nearly every video is extreme left propaganda like black actor playing English queen Charlotte. That was so dumb and disgusting to watch that a lot of people canceled subscription on that time.


Bridgerton, set in an alternate universe is a show that has had a pretty intense trigger effect. The idea of black people playing Regency era personalities is unacceptable for some despite being obviously far from historically accurate to the point of being classified as “dumb and disgusting”.


Oh how I would love people to actually know what "extreme left" meant before being insulted by the massive propaganda coup which is a black person playing a historically white person. Kind of like that critically slammed and forgettable propaganda piece Hamilton, right?


Yes, just like it was propaganda when DC had a Black lady playing an orange alien from Tamaran. It’s fiction


This is starting to look like a generic problem for companies which are valued on the basis of future growth, but may have in fact reached their mature size. Suddenly they have to be priced as ongoing operating companies, which is based on revenue and profits right now. Facebook. Uber. Netflix. Tesla. They all do something that people will pay for, but they aren't going to get a lot bigger.


Not sure why you put Tesla in the list. They still grow substantially, just added two new large factories (Germany, Texas) and about to build another one (Indonesia).


Because they are a luxury car maker, a crowded sector. Tesla, to grow into its market cap, has to outsell the top automakers put together. They need something at the Toyota Corolla price point to do that.


Tesla is still a long way from covering demand, even with their current expensive models and with zero advertising on top.

They have no real business justification to expand to cheaper models until they have enough spare capacity.

Building factories and the required battery supply chains isn't fast or easy. Model 2 and 1 will come eventually.


Or a brand. Look how far branding got Apple!


Until a few months ago, Netflix was spaffing out content deals to support growth.(although they have announced a $250m deal with double negative animation.)

Everything is a genius growth model until its not.


Content deals isn’t growth.

Growth is when you get more money from customers.


> Problem is — and again, this is not some massively deep observation — wanting more hits and actually making them are two very different things. Netflix until now seems to have believed the best way to produce them is to throw all the money it can find at Hollywood and wait for the successes to start rolling in.

This is basically the VC formula applied to entertainment, and just like how sometimes you get a Dropbox, sometimes you get a Stranger Things. And sometimes you don't.

Of course the key in both is having people with a developed enough market savvy and eye for talent to spot the future Dropboxes and Stranger Things. In VC, it requires a deep understanding of market forces, founders, teams, and tech, and in entertainment, it requires an understanding of both popular tastes and critical tastes as well as the intricacies of production.

Smart people can make bad bets and anyone can get lucky, but the part that's so much harder than it looks is to improve that batting average. Everyone has an opinion on what Netflix should do – I certainly have my own thoughts on things that ought to work (sign Ian Hubert to make a Dynamo Dream series! Adapt Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination with The Rock as Gully Foyle!), but ultimately, it's just my guesses about the cultural marketplace. What Netflix needs is people with greenlight power who have a better feel for that marketplace than anyone else.