Netflix will spend somewhere between $7 billion and $8 billion on content in 2018, up from $6 billion this year. This coincides with their push toward big-budget tentpoles, which has already seen the release of titles like award-winning military drama Beasts of No Nation (2015), Oscar-nominated Ava DuVernay doc 13th (2016), and Cannes-praised action adventure flick Okja (2017), among others.
Since introducing original series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black back in 2013, Netflix has become a leading competitor within the TV landscape, rolling out new shows at an increasingly breakneck pace, luring industry heavyweights like Shonda Rhimes away from network television, and effectively revolutionizing the way creators think about small screen content. Now, it seems they're setting their sights on doing the same for the film industry. Already on the docket are high-profile features like Will Smith-fronted Bright — which has a reported production price tag of $90 million — and Martin Scorsese gangster movie The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, which has a $46 million budget. And they won't be slowing down any time soon.
As reported by Variety, Netflix expects to release around 80 original films next year. “They range anywhere from the million-dollar Sundance hit, all the way up to something on a much larger scale,” chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in an investors interview on Monday, during which he also announced the uptick in spending. CFO David Wells noted that the inflated budget was not tied to the company's recent price increases in several markets, and that the decision had been planned for a long time.
The news comes as Netflix strives toward becoming increasingly self-sufficient, aiming to up its library to 50 percent original content by next year. This ensures that it won't take too big a hit if third party distributors pull their licensing deals in order to air their programming on other platforms, as Disney announced it would do in August. As Sarandos continued on the call:
“We just have to focus on creating content that our members can’t live without… Whether or not one of our partners decides to produce for us or compete with us, that’s really a choice that they have to make based on their own business.”
Of course, it also poses a looming threat to the already suffering movie biz, which over the summer saw box office attendance hit a 25-year low. If Netflix can pave the way for prestige films to air exclusively online, as it's already done with television, Hollywood studios will have to fight even harder to drive audiences to theaters. All of which is to say that Netflix has found a clearly successful model, but the rest of the industry will need to think critically (and quickly) about how they can keep up.