August 16, 2022

Netflix Says It’s Business as Usual. Is That Good Enough?

This can be seen in, for instance, the company’s marketing budgets. In 2019 — when Disney+ and Apple TV+ were just getting started and HBO Max did not exist — Netflix spent $2.6 billion on marketing. In 2021, when competition greatly increased, it spent $2.5 billion.

Most shows on Netflix still appear on the service with relatively little outside promotion. And the streamer’s movies still receive only nominal theatrical releases. For instance, “The Gray Man,” an expensive, summer blockbuster-style film starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, will debut in select theaters on July 15 before becoming available on Netflix a week later.

And, according to two people familiar with the talks between Netflix and exhibitors, there are no active negotiations regarding other potential theatrically exclusive releases. The much anticipated “Knives Out” sequel, scheduled to be released this year, will appear on Netflix after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. An exclusive extensive theatrical launch appears unlikely. Netflix declined to comment on its theatrical strategy.

But company executives have become much more sensitive to bad reviews, which have lately been appearing in high frequency as Netflix struggles to find a new hit on a par with “Stranger Things” or “The Crown.” (Newer content like the film “Spiderhead” and the series “God’s Favorite Idiot” have been critically derided.) A producer who works with Netflix said the word “quality” was being bandied about much more often in development meetings.

Emily Feingold, a Netflix spokeswoman, disputed the idea that focusing on a show’s quality was somehow a change in strategy, referring to such disparate content as “Squid Game,” the reality television show “Too Hot to Handle,” and movies like “Red Notice” and “The Adam Project.”

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