Netflix has some big new shows and films to talk about, as it looks to turn around the narrative of a tricky year.
After years and years of continual growth, this already feels like the year that the Netflix bubble burst. Even though its subscriber base is still enormous, and even though its revenues in a bad quarter are $8bn, the streaming giant is facing what looks like a year of subscriber decline. It’s already lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year. It’s expecting to lose a further two million when its next quarter results are announced. It ain’t going broke anytime soon, but for a company built on debt, momentum, and being able to outspend everyone else, it feels like a turning point.
Not that you’d instantly know it. Promotion has already ramped up for its most expensive movie to date, The Gray Man, starring Ryan Gosling. Eyed as part of a new franchise, it’s got the directors of the last two Avengers movies – Joe and Anthony Russo – behind the camera. Reports suggest the film has cost some $200m just to make, eclipsing the spend on films such as The Irishman, 6 Underground and Red Notice.
This is also the week when the firm launches the final season of one of its most popular and uncancelled shows, Stranger Things. The final series is being split into two, but each episode seems to run to pretty much feature length, with stories of a budget of $30m per instalment. Netflix is not being shy about promoting this.
In the midst of all this noise, it’d be remiss not to mention the launch of Ricky Gervais’ contentious latest stand-up special, that’s made such a splash already online – exactly as Netflix would have intended – that a further special, Armageddon, has already been ordered.
Of course, it’s not the high profile stuff that’s been the problem with retaining subscribers. The routine cancellation of most shows within two seasons, the thinning catalogue of older movies, and the continual price hikes in a time of stiff competition and squeezed household incomes, are the key issues that a new $200m film won’t counter.
But these three productions – with other high profile projects landing later this year, ordered by Netflix in better times – will see the streamer at least come out swinging. The problem is next to better oiled and better resourced competition, the days of subscribers falling may go on for some time. The longer term response to that remains to be seen.