By Jonathan Reed
Since Netflix was founded in 1997, the company has grown into the tenth biggest internet company in the world, with annual revenues exceeding $1-billion. As of 2018, Netflix has over 130-million subscribers worldwide and is recognised as a dominating force within the media industry. With monumental hits such as, 'The Crown', 'Stranger Things', 'Making A Murderer' and 'Punisher' to name a few, how can network stations compete?
It may seem as if Netflix had a meteoric rise to the top in a few short years, but that would be untrue. Founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in California, the company originally rented DVDs by mail. Netflix was then launched in 1998 with only 30 employees and 925 titles available online. Fast-forward 20 years, and 925 now exceeds 14,835 in movies, TV shows and Documentaries. In recent years Netflix has gone one step further, investing in their own projects to rival the likes of HBO, NBC and the BBC.
Their success has been overwhelming, with show after show satisfying both critics and subscribers. From the biographical drama, 'The Crown' which is Netflix’s most expensive show, costing over $100-million for the first season alone, to the addictive and equally popular 'Stranger Things'. Both shows have garnered an almost fanatic fanbase and made world-wide stars in the shape of Claire Foy and Millie Bobbie Brown.
But it isn’t just drama’s that Netflix has succeeded in. Their documentaries are equally addictive, the most popular being 'Making A Murderer'. The show aired to universal praise and has been touted as the most addictive show on the streaming service. It also had a huge effect in real-life with one of the accused murderers potentially facing a re-trial.
As time has passed, Netflix has had an impact on society and isn’t afraid to create programmes and movies that represent the times we are living in. ‘Nappily Ever After’ features a predominantly African American cast, ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’s lead is an Asian actress. It may seem bizarre to make this such a major point, but in an industry that is heavily criticised of being insensitive to inclusion, Netflix seem to be leading the charge in changing the TV/Film landscape.
It is this forward thinking that many believe is causing Netflix domination over other TV Networks. Just take 'The Crown' for example, can you honestly see the BBC or ITV spending over $100-million on just one series? No, but the choice has been taken out of their hands.
The largest complaint about your non-subscriber networks, is that they are subjugated with game and reality shows. Love Island, Big Brother, The Chase, The X Factor, Tipping Point, The Only Way Is Essex, one after another they keep producing more. For many, the lack of choice is frustrating. With Netflix, viewers don’t get this problem. There is so much good content to choose from that the phrase, “Netflix and chill”, has become ingrained with the millennial culture.
But with recent shows like Bodyguard, Press, Victoria and especially Blue Planet 2, it seems stations like ITV and the BBC are beginning to see the benefit of showcasing brilliant drama. The hugely successful and intense series, Bodyguard celebrated nearly 11-million viewers per episode. Blue Planet 2 became one of the most watched TV Shows in recent years with over 13-million tuning in. The numbers don’t lie and demonstrate the insatiable appetite for entertaining programming.
What is evident is that TV networks are only beginning to catch-up to Netflix, which in itself is a strange fact considering how much longer TV channels have been around compared to Netflix. And it seems that these networks believe the same as they are willingly partnering up with the subscription based service to produce their own shows also.
The dominating effect of Netflix can be argued as both a good and bad thing. It’s great that people are able to see brilliant programmes and movies that look exceptional and are truly entertaining, but at what cost to TV networks? Occasionally a show will come along, like Blue Planet 2 which will capture the imagination of the audience away from Netflix, but that isn’t a common occurrence. With Netflix, each show they produce seems to garner unimaginable attention, and a fanatic anticipation for what’s next.
It has hard to see how TV networks can compete with the power that is Netflix. Their unapologetic attitude to spending ridiculous amounts of money on one movie or one series is famously known and yet they reap the benefits. Award after award comes their way. Just look at this year’s EMMY Awards. Netflix won a staggering 23 statues matching the juggernaut, HBO. If this proved anything, it was the undeniable formula that spending money on content works!
TV is slowly adopting this tried, tested and successful formula, but still has a long way to go to match Netflix. Though, like most of the 130-million people who have subscribed to the online streaming service, Netflix isn’t going anywhere, and most certainly will be dominating the entertainment landscape for quite some time.