Industry News

Netflix finally learns the oldest rule in Hollywood: Hits matter

21 April, 2021

Netflix is dramatically upping its content spend in 2021—to $17 billion—signaling that it will be making more bets on big movies and TV shows as it fights to fend off competitors like Disney Plus and HBO Max. While the latter have built-in access to popular franchises like Star Wars and Wonder Woman due to their Hollywood studio parents, Netflix has had to buy its way into the franchise business. It recently made a deal with Sony to become the streaming home to Marvel films such as Spider-Man and Venom, and it paid $465 million for the two sequels to Knives Out, the whodunit thriller starring Daniel Craig. As co-CEO Ted Sarandos said on an earnings call on Tuesday, “big event content” is crucial to the company’s strategy going forward.

Indeed, these big bets on known film entities (up until now, Netflix had mainly splurged on TV showrunners such as Shonda Rhimes, whose first big project, Bridgerton, was one of the few bright spots for the company so far in 2021) are likely to continue as the streamer wades into ever-more competitive territory and tries to maintain the momentum it enjoyed in 2020 as COVID-19 kept people strapped to their couches. On the earnings call, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slowing this year: In the first quarter, it added nearly 4 million subscribers, short of the 6 million it had projected. The news sent the company’s stock falling in after-hours trading, down 11%.

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