Jul 03, 2022
Confessions of a former NETFLIX ZOMBIE: As the streaming giant reveals it soon expects to have lost two million subscribers, SIMON MILLS charts the highs and lows of his own love affair with its shows
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I was there. A true early adopter, ‘scrolling’ the menu, talking about shows in terms of ‘seasons’ and ‘narratives’, shunning terrestrial as if it were some blowsy old lover who’d gone to seed.
For the first year after its UK launch in 2012, Netflix only offered an occasional diversion from my regular homespun viewing.But then, on 1 February 2013, House of Cards season one dropped. And everything changed. For ever.
The super-smart political thriller may have been on my small screen but its impact was cinematic. The opening credits (which you could skip if you so desired – how about that!?) were a little arthouse movie in themselves. The series starred proper Hollywood actors and the story was utterly compelling: ruthless pragmatism and manipulation, libidinous cigarette smoking, betrayal and corruption. ]
As the streaming giant reveals it soon expects to have lost two million subscribers, Simon Mills charts the highs and lows of his own love affair with Netflix shows. Illustration: Tim Mcdonagh
Newly single at the time, and without a TV aerial on the roof of my new home with which to receive BBC, I inhaled every delicious, internet-streamed episode of the first season over a single weekend, truly believing that I had invented a new way to enjoy TV; binge-watching, I termed it. Buying box-sets, renting DVDs, paying late return fines – that stuff suddenly seemed like home entertainment’s dark ages. In just two days I became a Netflix minx, next inhaling all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad then discovering the narcotic, labyrinthine delights of Narcos. By perfecting my deep-scrolling technique, I also discovered weird, quirky, cultish stuff (much of it actually about cults – Wild, Wild Country being an old favourite), including a documentary called My Friend Rockefeller which has since disappeared.RELATED ARTICLES
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Of course, Netflix and I couldn’t go on for ever. It couldn’t keep up the quality levels and I simply couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of stuff available. It was lockdown’s obsession with the service’s new and trashy shows, such as Tiger King, that marked the beginning of the end. I watched it, of course – all 12 grisly, sweary, elaborately mulleted, trainwreck episodes – but it left me feeling icky and sullied.
I also began to slightly resent the snoopy Netflix Recommendation Engine (NRE) algorithm which ruthlessly filters content based on your viewing. That’s why when you’ve watched Breaking Bad, the NRE will suggest that you might want to see the execrable Jackass vehicle Bad Grandpa. Like The Crown? You’ll love The Duchess .
So, ten years in, I’m not exclusive. Yes, I still carry a torch for good old Netflix, but I flirt outrageously with Disney+, Mubi and Amazon. I spend dirty weekends with BBC iPlayer, BritBox and Now. I also quite fancy a bit of Hulu. You like the sound of me, the dirty, rotten, two-timing content cad? Then you simply must watch The Tinder Swindler – streaming now on Netflix.
WHAT KIND OF NETFLIX VIEWER ARE YOU?
You know you have consumed way too much Netflix when the ‘continue watching for Simon’ bit of the menu includes titles that you have little or no memory of. Even more worrying is the fact that you may have viewed several seasons of that Scandi noir murder drama less than 12 months ago, and still have absolutely no recall of plot, location or characters.
THE GENRE BUSTER
What’s with Netflix’s thing for categorising its content using increasingly bizarre and oddly specific names? I mean, exactly what is a ‘hidden gem, fight-the-system’ film? Do any subscribers actively seek out ‘violent nightmare-vacation’ movies?THE DREAM STREAM: MY TOP TEN NETFLIX PICKS
The Crown: Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor)
THE SUBTITLE STREAMER
Netflix has found itself in the unlikely role of the United Nations of TV, encouraging us to hoover up stuff from France, Sweden, Germany and Poland. People who once turned up their noses at subtitled telly and movies for being ‘too arty’ are busy bingeing on Squid Game (South Korea) and Money Heist (Spain). Who would have thought that smart dinner-party conversation would now revolve around opinions on season three of gripping terrorism drama Fauda… from Israel?
THE RAGER AGAINST THE ALGORITH MACHINE
Yes, I know that I devoured Breaking Bad and its excellent spin-off Better Call Saul, but Netflix now seems to have me down as some sort of crack-addicted, litigation-obsessed lowlife who might enjoy hoary, schlocky guff like The Sinner. Recently it’s been suggesting that I try watching a Ricky Gervais stand-up thing. Netflix, you know I can’t bear Ricky Gervais. Or maybe… you don’t know me at all?
THE MENU BROWSER
Ten years in, the Netflix content I view the most is called ‘The Netflix Menu’ (and no, this one doesn’t get really good in series four). I sometimes spend nearly an hour scrolling and clicking, desperately searching for something new and interesting that I haven’t seen (or have I?) before. By the time I’ve found it, my girlfriend is asleep and I have drunk half a bottle of wine.
THE DOUBLE SCREEN WATCHER
Sorry, but I blame the ephemeral aspects of Netflix for the fact that I often only half-view its content. I glimpse-watch – screen-in-screen style, in the corner of my laptop – a show that I am only half-committed to while answering emails or paying some bills.
THE NETFLIX DESERTER
During lockdown, I overdosed on Netflix, cruelly abandoning BBC and ITV to spend pretty much every pandemic night self-medicating with The Queen’s Gambit and Black Mirror. I wasn’t alone. Almost 16 million people created accounts in the first three months of 2020, apparently beginning a love affair with streaming.
But it turned out to be just a meaningless fling, with Netflix revealing it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of 2022 and warning that another two million were expected to bale in the coming quarter.
Have you ever watched a show called Line of Duty? It’s really rather good. All six seasons are now streaming on something called ‘BBC’.
News Source: dailymail.co.uk
Netflix is not in deep trouble. Its becoming a media company
Netflix has had a terrible 2022. In April, it said it lost subscribers for the first time since 2011. Its stock has tumbled more than 60% so far this year.
Yet its recent struggles may not be the start of a downward spiral or the beginning of the end for the streaming giant. Rather, it’s a sign that Netflix is becoming a more traditional media company.
Netflix was originally valued as a Big Tech company, part of the Wall Street acronym, “FAANG,” which stood for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Wall Street once valued the company at about $300 billion — a number on par with many Big Tech companies that Netflix’s business model ultimately couldn’t live up to.
“I think Netflix was extremely overvalued,” Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, told CNN Business. “Unlike those companies that have different tentacles, Netflix does not have a lot of tentacles.”
But Netflix was never really a tech company.
Yes, it relied on subscriber growth like many companies in the tech world, but its subscriber growth was built on having films and TV shows that people wanted to watch and pay for. That’s more a like a studio in Hollywood than a tech company in Silicon Valley.
Netflix looked a lot more like a tech company than, say, Disney, Comcast, Paramount or CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. But as those traditional media companies start to look a lot more like Netflix, Netflix in turn is starting to take page out of its rivals’ playbooks: It’s going to start serving ads and it has been releasing some shows over the course of weeks and months rather than all at once.
Netflix has said that its cheaper ad tier and clampdown on password sharing may come next year. It’s partnering with Microsoft for its ad business.
“I think in many ways the moves Netflix are making suggest a transition from tech company to media company,” Andrew Hare, a senior vice president of research at Magid, told CNN Business. “With the introduction of ads, crackdown on password sharing, marquee shows like ‘Stranger Things’ experimenting with a staggered release, we are seeing Netflix looking more like a traditional media company every day.”
Hare added that Netflix’s former business strategy, which was “once sacrosanct is now being thrown out the window.”
“Netflix once forced Hollywood deeply out of its comfort zone. They brought streaming to the American living room,” he said. “Now it appears some more conventional practices could be what Netflix needs.”
At Netflix right now, “a lot of these strategic moves are being made as they mature and move into the next phase as a company,” noted Hare. That includes focusing on cash flow and revenue rather than just growth.
“In other words, old school business,” he said.
— CNN Business’ Moss Cohen contributed to this report.
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