How has Netflix made itself indispensable?

How has Netflix made itself indispensable?_5ee33de895457.jpeg

The recent news that Netflix was cancelling pretty much all of the Marvel properties on the streaming service may seem like a huge hit to the platform, however, the brand is still ploughing ahead with as much gusto and ambition as ever. The recent launch of the highly acclaimed Umbrella Academy has proven that Disney perhaps needed Netflix more than Netflix needed Disney after all.

You see, Netflix does not place all of its proverbial eggs in one basket. They’ve cast their net far and wide, made themselves indispensable in a world where they could have come down with Blockbuster, but instead evolved into one of the most well-loved and powerful brands of our time.

They’ve made waves in an industry which is seemingly crowded, up against other big players such as Amazon Prime, Now TV and Hulu – even facing off with the Google arm of streaming – YouTube – but in spite of this, they still come out on top more often than not.

What the heck is FAANG?

Netflix falls into a very special group of companies, known as FAANG, which refers to the markets five best-performing tech stocks. This includes Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. In March of 2018, the sum market capitalisation of these five companies together amounted to over $3 trillion.

In May of 2018, Netflix briefly surpassed Disney as the most valuable US company, when it, impressively, more than doubled its market value to $172bn. This was largely due to an increase in subscriber growth teamed with issues faced by Disney during their acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Social mavericks

They don’t just say it, they show it. Netflix is not only a fine purveyor of both pre-loved and original TV and films, they also have a strong meme game which has made their online following boom in recent years.

Social listening and a wealth of user data teamed with an exceptionally sharp team of social professionals is likely the main culprit for this success. Their ability to take user data and provide a social commentary, of sorts, has made them a commodity in the social sphere, without becoming salesy or pushy or boring.

They’ve racked up millions of followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with specialist pages for each region. This allows for better segmentation of the audience, although anyone can follow them, and ensures the content is highly targetted and relevant, in the most applicable language and suitable to their primary demographics.

Utilising content which serves the most age appropriate characters to those that use the platform, further supports in creating spaces which are unique to groups of viewers. For example, Instagram is favoured by Millennials and Gen-Z whereas Facebook tends to differ from this, being primarily composed of Millennials and older. Therefore the way they use the platform and the types of content they serve is amended to fit this.

Reading the room

Although it’s had its share of ‘problematic’ moments, including failing to remove certain media featuring questionable comedians and actors in the past during the MeToo movement, Netflix does appear to have its finger on the pulse of the social climate.

Delivering programming which offers some kind of social commentary and awareness, whilst also making attempts to diversify in terms of offering platforms to boost the voices of minority groups, has made Netflix stand-out from the streaming crowd.

The platform has been recognised for its commitments to pushing for better diversity, across the board. They’ve deliberately created opportunities to include people from BAME backgrounds across the scope of the production remit, from acting and directing to further opportunities in the industry. However, like the majority of companies, they still have ways to go to prove they have a long-term commitment to diversity and are not just paying lip service.

At the end of 2018, the streaming service came under fire for their algorithm which seemingly presented users with racially-targetted promotional images. Although Netflix insists it has no way of collecting any information on users based on race, gender or ethnicity, many have argued that viewing history could be relied upon to determine the user’s interests in particular actors and then use this to serve promotional images which are relevant to the preferred actor’s demographics.

Moreover, they have faced crticism for problematic programming which has been accused of romanticising issues such as suicide, stigmatizing mental illness and glamorising fat-shaming – to name a few.

Surviving in a post-Marvel platform

The comic-book fandom and culture of today have seen some things. From the butchering of Fantastic 4 not once, not twice, but three times, the constant struggle to make the DC universe work, Suicide Squad…, Toby McGuire as Spiderman, a fair few early 2000’s Marvel adaptations; Daredevil, Green Lantern, Ghost Rider (seriously, whoever thought Nicolas Cage could be a superhero?!) and everything in between. But now we seem to be in a good place and we’re seeing more impressive adaptations of comic books crop up each year.

The likes of the brand new Umbrella Academy has proven that there is room for truly decent television in the comic book universe. It no longer needs to be all spandex and bright colours, instead, we can have truly deep characters with meaningful stories and Netflix clearly have an idea of how to make up for their short-comings on the now Marvel-less platform.

Although the overarching culture may not appreciate the mainstream adaptations of their favourite comic books, it does allow for the creation of a more diverse selection of content. Not just this, but its highly accessible and means that representation can be expanded beyond ‘every day’ stories to ensure that everyone can see themselves within a superhero universe and beyond.

What does the future look like?

As with any tech company, it can be hard to determine what the future has in store for Netflix. Some believe that there is a risk of another ‘dotcom bubble burst’, with the anticipation of tech companies performances pushing stock prices ever higher.

However, for now, with the sheer number of users, Netflix is unlikely to be disappearing any time soon. One of the key threats to Netflix is competition, after all, there’s a reason why the likes of Disney, BBC and ITV are all creating their own streaming services.

They currently have a highly attractive pricing system which is accessible whilst playing host to a massive range of audience demographics.

Now, the Netflix key USP is standing out from the crowd which means looking more closely at the opportunities they have already created, identifying the content and marketing methods which have been the most successful and taking these to the bank.

Learning from mistakes and previous controversy would be wise for Netflix to more permanently extend their viewership and establish themselves as the ‘go-to’ for content. This will likely include taking more of a stance against YouTube and including more creator content, which would also support in diversifying, more effectively whilst maintaingin their currently strategy.


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