You might not believe it, but Netflix’s online streaming service is already well over a decade old, having been created and released to the earliest wave of subscribers back in 2007. To put that into perspective, that’s the same year that the world’s first iPhone was released and, by most accounts, the dawn of the smartphone era.
Six years later, and the release of the highly acclaimed TV show House of Cards offered a great boon to the streaming service. This was its pivotal debut as a production company, as well as a platform for others. Since then, the company has been involved in the creation of a number of the most popular TV shows of the 2010s, from Orange is the New Black to Lucifer and, most recently, The Queen’s Gambit.
The vast majority of us find our own groove with Netflix originals. The company was able to operate with a little more freedom than they would have had the productions been destined for the precise time slots and age ratings that linear TV demands, and they always had plenty of money to invest into their shows.
On the surface, it seems like a perfect combination, and it could be. If not for the fact, of course, that many of us – and likely the overwhelming majority – are growing used to Netflix’s tendency toward untimely cancellations.
Netflix’s Unique Position in the World of Digital Entertainment
In many ways, Netflix started a new movement in the digital world. Until it grew into the streaming service it is today, the lion’s share of video content available on the web came from YouTube – which was, in 2007, still pretty guileless. Now, however, it feels as though other arms of the digital entertainment industry are managing it better.
Consider online gaming – in particular, the online casino, which has been thriving in the same way Netflix has: through substantial, digital content libraries boasting countless titles to those who sign up. These developers continue to contribute to these libraries and to make their bonuses increasingly competitive out of necessity – if you, the player, grow tired of the offerings, you can simply self-exclude and choose another operator offering a bigger bonus. The marketplace is saturated enough that the player will always find another site, another operator, with the offerings they want.
Netflix cannot work this way. Their business model is built upon a relatively rapid style of changeover, where they acquire rights to X number of titles for X number of months, and then replace them with new ones when these are lost.
Consider Spotify, and the other popular online music streaming services which, much like Netflix, swooped in during the mid-2000s and made the disc almost obsolete in a matter of months. Much like the pervious example, Spotify does not need to exchange its offerings every few months; users know that they are one of the best resources for music, full stop, and not a selection of musical titles – some very old, some very obscure, and some refreshingly contemporary.
Netflix’s content is, on the whole, a snapshot of TV and film through the ages; from foreign films to reality reruns, adult cartoons and costume dramas. Most of it, we don’t care to watch. A fair amount sheds light on Netflix’s shaky position within the movie industry – one that is growing increasingly unstable as more and more production companies create their own streaming platforms and preclude Netflix from ever licensing their content.
In 2020, Netflix made headlines multiple times purely as a result of their decision to cancel popular shows. For anyone who spent any amount of time on Twitter this year, their announcement that GLOW was on its way out was, arguably, one of the most talked about.
The list, however, of shows cancelled by Netflix in 2020 goes on and on – as does the list made at the tail end of 2019. Of course, with the release of Disney Plus and a new streaming service from Warner Bros., the pressure will be piling onto the service-come-production-company to fill the void left by all that content which, in all likelihood, will never again be available on their platform.
For a company once hailed for its strategic agility during unpredictable times, it seems an odd decision, however, to allow indecisiveness and trepidation to reign during this pivotal time, and to earn a label for oneself as a canceller of good shows, rather than a reliable source of them.