Just four years ago, Netflix permanently altered the landscape of television programming when they debuted their first original series, House of Cards. The streaming conglomerate has since gone on to produce original content that ranges from comedy specials to original cartoons and win over 30 Emmys. The platform lends itself to a new model of media production and consumption, since its “binge-watching” format allows creators to shoot and release content as a complete package, and viewers to absorb it whenever they like.
Though Netflix gained the bulk of its subscribers as a streaming service for non-original content, the site is looking to push forward with original production even more. Earlier today, Netflix CFO David Wells told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that the company would like to see original programming make up about half of its content in the near future.
According to a report from Deadline, Wells said that the company, which is currently about a third of the way to its goal, plans to use their consistent revenue from subscription fees to stay afloat while spending at least $1 billion a year on production. Wells pointed out that this was a luxury traditional networks cannot afford, though it’s unclear whether even Netflix can afford it, since the site recently had to raise prices to make up for investor concerns that subscription was too cheap. The CFO also acknowledged that, although the site certainly doesn’t like it when customers share their passwords, there’s little they can practically do about it: “We could crack down on it, but you wouldn’t suddenly turn them into paid users.”
The proposed solution to declining subscriptions, then, appears to be an attempt to offer subscribers content they simply won’t be able to get elsewhere. Interestingly enough, this news comes right on the heels of reports that Fox is suing Netflix for poaching their production executives, to which Netflix replied in a statement that they would “fight for the right to hire great colleagues no matter where they work.” It seems like the company will certainly need all hands on deck if they intend to produce enough original content to account for 50 percent of their programming, though given the high-quality programming the network has been able to produce right off the bat, it’s possible they needn’t be so trigger-happy with the new hires.
At the same time, however, this move rings alarm bells for those of us who still turn to Netflix just to stream other content. After all, it’s unclear whether the site would be able to successfully produce some of their content if they didn’t already build up audiences using non-original programming. One could argue, for instance, that so many young people are excited for the Netflix Gilmore Girls revival because they were able to experience the CW show in its entirety for the first time via Netflix. This proposition has the potential to be really exciting, but at the same time it almost seems ungrateful, and potentially even foolish.
More and more original content from Netflix could mean great things — more opportunities to pick up indie gems like Tallulah, for instance — but it’s reasonable to feel skeptical at this news, too, especially if you remember when it seemed like everything Netflix made was genius. Still, maybe oversaturation won’t even touch the network, and TV fans will just have more outstanding content awaiting them. Either way, this is at least a year or two down the road, so loyal subscribers can dip their feet before having to dive right in.