Off Air: Netflix Raising Prices
Read the article: Netflix Raising Prices.
Amidst growing competition and losing the licensing rights to many fan favorite shows, Netflix has decided to raise the prices of their standard and premium level memberships.
Netflix even acknowledges the increase in competition but suggests that the increased prices are to help them to continue to make more original content. I’m going to be honest, I find myself watching less and less Netflix as the weeks go on. The last original series we watched on Netflix was The Witcher and before that, the new season of Queer Eye. This week was a bit stressful so we turned to the comfort food of The West Wing (though likely a target for HBO Max). And I have family waiting not-so-patiently for the next season of The Crown.
I found myself watching more HBO Max than anything else (Friends, The Vow, the DC Universe content, West Wing Reunion Special), Disney+ is good for the Marvel films and The Mandolorian and Hulu has a solid mix of more prestige original content (recently watched The Act).
I’m not saying I’m ready to cut the cable, so to speak, on Netflix, but they’re making it harder for me to keep them at the top of list.
Andrew, you’re our Netflix specialist, what do you think this means for the streaming giant going forward and how should fans react to this news?
Spent $16B on content in 2020 and Pat is bored! Sounds more like a Pat problem to me.. Haha. For the record, I want to say that, even though I do a Netflix based podcast, I am not a homer. I have criticized their moves before, but, on this point, I will not.
Netflix is making the right decision here for what their current model needs them to do. Amazon has money from selling everything on the planet, Disney has theme parks & cruise lines (before Covid) to pad their bottom lines, and Apple has their tech. The one thing Netflix has is the revenue from their 193 million subscribers and to keep them happy, they need to give them as many hits to watch as they can.
They cannot compete with HBO Max & Disney when it comes to back catalogs, so original content is everything and that costs money. A dollar a month for the most common plan is not much to most people, especially for a service that was the content king during the pandemic when people needed it most. They are trying to match the Disney catalog playbook from scratch. They are currently producing big budget action franchises (even from comic books), animated films, & YA content like their smash teen rom-coms. Netflix is doing the only thing they can do to survive the Streaming Wars. Subscriber growth will slow in the future, so they need to show that their commitment to new content is why people should stay.
Shots fired! Like I said, I watched The Witcher and that was fantastic (once I figured out what was happening). However, when I see other original stuff on theirs, I tend to just say, “Add it to the list and I’ll get to it later.” ...and then never get to it. Half the time I don’t know a new Netflix original is out until your podcast.
The last two Netflix original movies (NOMs) I watched on opening weekend were The Irishman and Spencer Confidential. The former because of the cast and the hype and the water cooler moments - The Irishman and Netflix did a great job of telling everyone it was coming; and the latter because it just happened to be there. But you’re right, I am picky. Not everything can be perfect for me.
You bring up a great point, now is the time to capitalize on, essentially, a captive audience. Netflix, if it wasn’t already, has firmly planted themselves into the daily ecosystem of our lives. Thanks to lockdowns, “Netflix and Chill” dates aren’t so much a humorous phrase but an accepted fact of life.
I doubt this will hamper subscribers; if any defect, the increase in revenue will more than make up for it. So let me pivot to this, while I think we can all appreciate Netflix’s constant content generation, do you think the speed at which they’re doing it is actually harmful? You mentioned Disney - they didn’t build that content library overnight, like Netflix seems to be doing, it took them decades and multiple acquisitions to bring everything under their wing. Do you think Netflix should slow down a bit, pick their targets, and really advertise them like you would a traditional in-theater launch?
Yes! You bring up a great point! The one last thing they need to learn from Disney is EVENTIZING! Even when most of them didn’t come out, a lot of people could tell you what Disney films & TV shows were set to arrive in 2020: Black Widow, Eternals, Mulan, Onward, Soul (for films), The Mandalorian, Falcon & The Winter Soldier, & Wandavision (for TV). Why? Because the franchise model that they’ve done with Marvel demands to be seen or if you’re a parent and you haven’t taken your kid to the latest Disney/Pixar animation project, then they fall behind at the playground “water cooler”.
For all their success, they’ve really only reached this status with Stranger Things and, to a lesser extent, their YA rom-com franchises like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before & The Kissing Booth. They tried harder with The Irishman. You don’t air commercials for something during the Super Bowl if you want people to stumble on it when they have a chance, but was it successful? Netflix seems to think so, but Martin Scorsese did take his next project elsewhere.
In 2020, they cleaned house in their marketing department in January and, in recent months, they started a new campaign called “One Story Away”, which displays their company strategy of promoting the value of the platform itself, instead of promoting individual shows & movies as hard as they had in the past. I wonder if this strategy will hurt their abilities to get certain projects (film or TV) to come to them versus their competitors. Oscar films might consider going elsewhere because The Irishman failed to win a single Academy Award despite being nominated for 10. They got outshined at the Emmys by HBO (Watchman, Succession, Euphoria) & Schitt’s Creek which is on a network nobody can name (Sorry, Pop TV).
So, will the best of the best projects continue to go elsewhere? Will the fact that they have a stockpile of movies & shows in the coming months help them win awards and win back big time talent to the platform? I don’t honestly know. Hard to argue when they are the big leaders in streaming, but do you see anyone else who might capitalize short-term or long-term if Netflix doesn’t make eventizing a priority?
I understand that not everything can be an EVENT! (All caps + exclamation point). Or, more to the point, they can’t all be treated as the same type of event. The new movies and shows that Netflix has coming out should be treated like an event to the individual fan bases and target audiences. And there should be bleed over for the more casual viewers. Sometimes I feel that they just put out content without much of a strategy and that, like their “One Story Away” strategy may hurt them. Be proud of the content, don’t just dump it out there and say, “see we’re using your subscriber dollars to make the most original content.” I don’t want “the most”, I want quality content with time invested in the fan base building. If I see what I perceive as a lower quality product that Netflix just releases I’m less likely to watch it than a perceived lower quality product that has some good marketing behind it. Again, it might not be the best show or movie but if I see them trying, I’m willing to get invested but it’s unlikely to stop after one film or one season. I’m in it for the long haul with these characters and I want the distributors to be there too.
Apple has tried to eventize everything - Defending Jacob, Greyhound, and The Morning Show. I don’t know if they have enough content to get me hooked yet. Similarly, Amazon is doing a great job with The Boys (buoyed by the week-to-week distribution strategy, despite what some “fans” think). They have a great back catalog of content to keep me hooked, however their user experience makes it challenging to see what’s included in Prime. You mentioned Disney+, I bought Mulan, I’ve watched The Mandalorian, and I’ll pay for Black Widow when it’s inevitably released on the platform. Finally, I think HBO Max has a great balance of not over eventizing and having a solid UX plus a great back catalog. If I’m putting money on it, I think HBO Max ends up the winner in all of this.
Time will tell and it’ll continue to crunch our wallets as more and more services pop up. Which ones will make your cut?
Patrick Whalen is the co-host of Yet Another MCU Podcast, as well one of the co-founders of Forgotten Entertainment. Andrew Morgan is the host of The NOMcast (The Netflix Original Movie Podcast)