How Netflix Will Compete with Marvel and DC
The major players in the billion-dollar film market are blockbusters, particularly those that are part of established franchises. A quick glance at the top grossing movies of 2017 will reveal where the big money lies, with all ten spots taken up by sequels, remakes or additions to franchises like the MCU or DCEU. Netflix has some solid options when it comes to original shows with its Marvel partnership, but no blockbusters to speak of. This is an area of entertainment where film can and must be ahead of the game. Studios are eager to incentivize audiences to leave their couches and go to the multiplex and pitching movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman as inherently cinematic experiences helps that.
Netflix hasn't really tried to compete with this strategy yet. They've made bigger budget action films like Bright but nothing on the scale of an MCU movie. They didn’t have a big brand to build a major franchise around, and doing that would be a necessity if they truly desired to keep up with Disney, Warner Bros. and the other big studios.
In 2017, Netflix acquired the adaptation rights for comic writer Mark Millar's publishing company, Millarworld, known for titles such as Kick-Ass, Wanted, and Kingsman. This news came with plans for a full slate of films and series based on Millar's work, including Empress and American Jesus. These may not be names as well-known as the Avengers or Justice League but they still allow Netflix to establish a big genre brand in the vein of Marvel and DC. They also have the freedom to offer something new in that field because of their willingness to make hard R-rated products, something most franchises stridently avoid.
Netflix’s Rom-Com Revival
In their effort to have their own original programming make up at least 50% of their slate, Netflix has been accused of rushing out inferior products and saturating their platform with cheap schlock. While there is some legitimacy to this claim, it also overlooks how savvy Netflix have been in investing in cost-efficient genre-friendly films and television that appeal to oft-ignored but highly profitable demographics. No better example of this exists than with their recent Summer of Love and the much-applauded revival of the romantic comedy on the service.
Three low-budget rom-coms aimed at teenagers – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing Booth, and Sierra Burgess is a Loser – as well as other original films like Set It Up were viewed by around 80 million Netflix users this Summer. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a minor pop culture phenomenon and all three became must-see movies for young women and rom-com lovers everywhere. Given the many headlines over the years declaring the romantic comedy genre to be dead in Hollywood, it was a pleasant surprise to see Netflix almost single-handedly prove otherwise.
This is no mere blip or passing fad either. Netflix’s sheer quantity of programming allows them to cover as many bases as possible, including those that are oft-ignored by the traditional studio systems or were written off as yesterday’s news once the box office profits got narrower. Those audiences never disappeared entirely, but now they had much fewer films to see. Hollywood is catching up a little – particularly with this Summer’s major success, Crazy Rich Asians – but Netflix’s unique business model allows them to work quicker to meet the demand. This doesn’t have to be limited to rom-coms either. Netflix has the means, connections and scope to provide plenty of content for whatever genre or audience requires it. This means they can stay ahead with trends rather than trail behind several years as the traditional studio system is prone to.