Today, Variety reported that Netflix has cut 300 jobs. You, the viewer, aren’t likely to see any major changes any time soon, but this does bode well for a bigger shock for the streamer.
After a shocking subscriber loss and forecasts for a terrible second quarter, Netflix hit the panic button. While they once scoffed at the idea of commercials, the shock of a disastrous quarter means an ad-supported tier is on the way. The company has pulled the plug on several animation projects. And the free days of the past are over.
With mega media companies like Disney, Paramount Global, NBCUniversal, and Warner Bros. Discovery jealously guarding their libraries for their own streaming services, Netflix has lost one of its most important crutches. The service no longer has access to popular sitcoms like Friends and The Office. Most blockbuster movies have found their permanent home on their studios’ streaming services. If Netflix wants to strengthen itself for the future, it must first take care of itself.
Rewind, then fast forward
While Netflix doesn’t have the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dunder-Mifflin, the Skywalker Family, or DC Super Heroes to add to its library, those traits didn’t put Netflix on the map. The service’s most enduring success stems from its original series such as House of Cards, Stranger Things, Tiger King, Money Heist, and Squid Game.
In any case, Netflix has stumbled upon something unique: a slow-burning political drama, an ’80s sci-fi/horror series, an insane docuseries, and high-stakes international series about bank robberies and dystopian kill-or-be-killed playgrounds games. When Netflix breaks new ground, it succeeds. Where it tries to copy its competitors (such as the superhero series Jupiter’s Legacy), it fails.
In recent years, Netflix has spent money chasing Oscars and action-packed blockbusters. But more often than not, these films feel like rip-offs from Hollywood productions. The Irishman pales in comparison to other Scorsese mob titles like Casino or GoodFellas. Army of the Dead feels like a less terrifying remake of Zack Snyder’s own Dawn of the Dead. “The Adam Project” is an odd hybrid of “Flight of the Navigator” and “Back to the Future” with an ending straight out of Field of Dreams.
The movies are nice, but they don’t move the needle as much as the Netflix shows. They also cost a fortune, thanks to the combination of stunts, A-list talent, and expensive digital effects. This newly imposed financial discipline is forcing Netflix to go back to basics — if you want to win the streaming war, you need to offer something audiences can’t find elsewhere. Recent HBO Max and Apple TV+ hits like Chernobyl, Station Eleven, and Severance aren’t necessarily expensive to produce, but they are well-told stories with dramatic impact. These are the things Netflix excelled at.
Yes, Netflix was hit in the face at short notice. But it still has a broad chance of being successful. Its competitors face some headwinds that Netflix doesn’t face.
- HBO Max has a new boss in David Zaslav, a notoriously cheap man who is reluctant to spend on prestige projects.
- Disney+ seems beset by power struggles and an inability to pull off a hit that doesn’t come from Marvel or Star Wars.
- Apple TV+ only wants to give the green light to projects with “known” talent in the mix.
So if Netflix goes back to its grim roots and gives emerging talent creative control, it will likely find its way again. After all, with 220 million subscribers, it only takes a spark to ignite a fire. We’re about to find out if a hungry Netflix has what it takes to win.