The last few days have been rough for Netflix. Not only did they publicly have to acknowledge that they lost subscribers for the first time in over ten years, but they’ll face 2M more jumping ship by the next quarter. Subsequently, investors are furious and fearful as their shares have dropped by a scary amount. Many find themselves wondering what exactly has led to this sudden shift within the market, as streaming was seen as this bottomless potential with billions of subscribers. What seems like they have potentially reached their limit, may showcase a general trend that has been waiting to show its fangs over the years.
One thing is for sure, it’s not a good look for Netflix and there are many discussion points that can be made on what led to this current downward spiral. Netflix will still hold on to its top spot and we’re already seeing it with the decision to add an ad-supported version at a cheaper price. Yet, there’s one aspect that seems worth exploring and that is Netflix’s obsession with quantity. They are investing a lot of money in originals, which leads us to get a diverse selection of projects. Yet, it also led to the new perception of the streamer becoming a safe haven for canceled projects but sadly a new trend has arisen.
Oddly enough, they’ve become obsessed with swiftly canceling projects. While some select projects manage to have some sense of longevity, they manage to drop franchises that have even proven to be quite successful. When Bright was first released in 2017, it was one of their most-watched films. Yet, somehow the sequel was buried at one point without any fanfare, and we got a prequel Anime spinoff that had little to no marketing push. There are projects where we do get some news ahead of its release, but there’s a trend that a lot of it is creator-driven.
The biggest example of Netflix’s modern marketing approach was their live-action Cowboy Bebop series. While production did face quite the delay and an adaptation of such a cult classic was definitely going to face some backlash, it just suddenly arrived. Its release date was announced on August 23rd and would hit the streamer on November 19th. At the time we didn’t get a trailer to build up the excitement and it wasn’t until the 19th of October that we got a mini-episode titled The Lost Session. we wouldn’t get the actual trailer until the 27th with only a few more weeks before it hit Netflix.
By the time we got any actual promotion or the series, people’s opinions have already been made on what to expect and a new audience had barely any time to relate to it. Considering it was released on the 19th of November, it barely even got a few weeks before Netflix just dropped the axe on the series on December 9th. Early reports indicated that the production was going in expecting multiple seasons and it was cut short before it even got started. The issue is also we don’t know what exactly the metric is that they are going for, especially with newly established franchises. They seemingly banked on the addition of the anime which may have hurt the release more than anything else.
It almost creates this belief that existing IPs will always draw in an audience no matter what. Yes, Cowboy Bebop has an extensive following but it’s also quite a bit more niche than some might expect, especially given Netflix’s focus on worldwide viewership. They are currently working on two other projects with Avatar: The Last Airbender and One Piece that have strongly established audiences but would still require a certain amount of marketing to ensure fans that this will be a faithful adaptation while pulling in new audiences.
There’s also a strange inconsistency with how much marketing a project ends up getting. As we were speaking of building upon existing IPs, there is the series Human Resources, the spinoff of the animated series Big Mouth, that got released on March 18th. The series actually got the first teaser back on October 4th. Even if it was short, it had the strict advantage of building upon an already established franchise on the service even if the naming wouldn’t hint at a connection. Its official trailer dropped in January, which gave it multiple months of momentum ahead of its release. The Season 2 renewal wasn’t until a full month before an announcement was made.
Ironically, a project that already has a well-established audience is given more time than a project that only a select few really are aware of. The odd decision to drop many animation projects as a result of the current development creates this odd disconnect of what exactly Netflix’s end goal is. They seemingly are dogpiling project after project that get no more than one or, if they’re lucky, two seasons.
Even those that seem like sure-fire franchises to build upon are killed off before they even get a chance to get going. The life and death of a series, or even an entire franchise, ends faster before it even has a chance to start. With the amount of growing competition, it’ll get more and more difficult for this model to survive by only giving spinoffs time to grow and just wait and see if a new series, even if based on a new IP, will somehow end up becoming successful.
Once a show drops with every episode, there’s hard to no additional marketing at play to keep it alive. They pretty much just bank on the show living on their own without putting in the work to keep it so. Disney+, Amazon Prime, Peacock, and more are slowly leaning towards weekly releases as it keeps these series alive way more than a single release. Yes, viewers are complaining about it but it’s a sign of how these continued marketing attempts build up the momentum as we get more impatient for what lies at the end. Perhaps Cowboy Bebop could’ve had some more attention given to it if it was a weekly release, especially as it moved away from the more disconnected storylines of the original.
Yes, Squid Game technically was one of the most talked-about series for weeks but that was a lightning in-the-bottle moment. If Netflix is hoping to keep that kind of series as their ongoing pillar, they are putting all their eggs into a single basket. Competition is rising, the demand is higher than ever and growth can no longer be the only focus. Some people subscribe to their service for specific series and franchises. If they have the feeling it barely sticks around, they won’t either. Word-of-mouth depends if the series is a game-changer and only rarely do we see that happen.
We’re seeing a new era of television, as Netflix’s original model is potentially reaching its limit. We’re either going to see more hybrid models moving forward, as we slowly step back into elements that made broadcast television work. As legacy companies are getting their hands back on their projects and Netflix is more dependent on its originals to keep people watching, they might require the number of reasons that remain as binge-able as The Office, Friends, and more. As they are losing their usual library and may soon no longer have all the bit IPs they usually had available, investments will only continue to grow moving forward.
People come to watch The Ozark, but they stay to watch their favorite comfort show. At some point, they became so dependent on existing series, that the demand for newer ones has reached some rather questionable highs if they keep canceling shows out of convenience. perhaps shifting to more long-form storytelling with various stories unfolding and growing audiences across multiple seasons will benefit them moving forward. With Netflix’s Geeked Week on the horizon, perhaps we’ll see a new shift in how they tackle their projects moving forward.