Seizing the means of production

TV Editor Luke Acton shares his views on the rapidly shrinking size of Netflix’s library and discusses their big money moves into producing their very own content library

23rd November 2016

Netflix’s library has shrunk by 31% over the last three years according to Allflicks, and I’m sure you’ve seen the adverts plugging the Netflix originals everywhere, and on the website. The quality of these productions was initially spotty, but recently Netflix hasn’t missed a step with it’s recent productions.

With every channel that owns intellectual property becoming more proficient at marketing it’s shows on the internet, the function of Netflix as the primary on-demand service is no longer as relevant.

What is relevant, is the company’s realisation that it might be more lucrative to produce and own the media they put on their platform. Even though the Marvel television universe is still the property of Disney, those shows most likely would not have happened if the apparatus of piloting and broadcasting hadn’t become obsolete in terms of actual television. Save for primetime, broadcast television is the domain of the 24-hour news cycle, daytime television and reruns. Sure, shows still have a presence on that medium, but it is not revolutionary to say that on-demand is the future.

“Aziz Ansari’s Master’s of None would not exist without platforms like Netflix, who gave him free reign when writing the show.”

All of the most notable shows for a while now, at least for this year, have been on-demand. Stranger Things, Marvel’s TVU, The Get Down, Mr. Robot (although on the USA network now, it got it’s start online) have been online. Although this writer has a bias towards Netflix (because it’s that or ~the internet~), the point is not the quantity of the viewers, for which sports broadcasts are still king, but the fact that the nature of the production pipeline has change. Technology has changed how we watch things, but also how programmes are conceived and executed. Aziz Ansari’s Master’s of None would not exist without platforms like Netflix, who gave him free reign when writing the show.

Although this move is unsubstantial for people who consume television, it poses a substantial risk for Netflix in terms of investment. The hiring of talent, the production, and the procuring of intellectual properties all add expensive step to a process that used to be ‘buy show then put that show on the internet’. However, this does address a different problem they have: their crackdown on the use of proxies to get the best library has reduced the proliferation of the content they provide, making them less money. But what is certain is that if a company doesn’t change, it will stop being demanded (BLOCKBUSTER). By producing their own shows, they don’t have to negotiate licencing because they have the sole rights to distribute.

Netflix changed the nature of television and films, but now that world is hitting back through channels withholding their distribution rights in favour of in-house streaming. The move into production isn’t one to innovate, it’s to survive.

Luke Acton

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