This week was a battle for the most important story between three related streaming stories. Who won? Well, Netflix, but not for the story you think.
Most Important Story – The First Netflix Original on Linear Broadcast
To steal from my own Twitter feed, Netflix is lauded as THE truly innovative company in entertainment. I read this all the time. And when they launched (ten years ago!) they really did change a lot of things: tons of episodes to watch on demand. All episodes released at once. Thousands of shows with scrolling. Recommendation algorithms. That really was a change in how the model worked.
Since then? Well, they’ve taken a lot of hard line stances:
– Never releasing originals in a week-to-week format.
– Never introducing live streams of shows.
– Never doing sports programming.
– Never releasing movies in theatrical windows.
– Never releasing original programming on linear or other platforms.
That’s a lot of “nevers” for a company that’s trying to be innovative. (In my head, I want to write a satirical HBR article called, “Innovation comes from Never”.) But it looks like the last two points may change, just very gradually. And not by Netflix’ choosing.
You probably missed this, but starting on this week, Bojack Horseman, the critically-acclaimed (?) Netflix original animated series is now airing on Comedy Central. The short explanation is that the distributor and production company retained linear rights after a hold back window for Netflix. So they sold it to the highest bidder.
Personally, I don’t mind this for Netflix. They don’t have a say either way, but they should really how premieres of existing shows off network help boost the ratings. Let me provide a personal anecdote to explain. I’ve wanted to watch The Magicians for a while now, but don’t currently have a Netflix subscription (we just weren’t using it). As a result, I never went over there to catch up on the previous seasons. So as each new season is released, I never bothered to catch up becuase Syfy never did a marathon of previous episodes to let me catch up.
But, for some reason, reruns of the season 1 recently appeared back on Syfy’s linear broadcast. Now my wife and I are debating turning Netflix on just for that show. (Or apparently the Syfy Now app has those episodes. We’ll see.) As a result, I may watch season 4 next season if I can catch up in time.
The point is that allowing sampling for bingeable shows will push people back to whoever has the most episodes. If you don’t have Netflix, then Bojack Horseman is dead to you…but for the people who just watch Comedy Central, they may get hooked and join. I’m sure there are other examples of streaming shows appearing on other platforms. I know HBO has put some of their very library shows into broadcast, and maybe some other Netflix originals appeared in other countries in different platforms. Either way, I’d say this is an experiment worth taking. Good luck Netflix, even if you didn’t want this.
Other Contenders for Most Important Story – WarnerMedia will have three tiers
I’m tempted to start this sub-section by blasting Warner Media and being as snarky as I can. It’s easy to make fun of them because they are doing something different, and different is easy to mock. The blink reaction I had was, “You’re going to try to go up against Netflix with three different, confusing price tiers? Really?”