There’s much to be said for Netflix’s data-led commissioning system. Being able to draw circles around shows its users watch, and then commissioning new shows based on where those circles overlap, was an innovative approach to creating content a few years ago.
Barring one or two shows that seemed like home runs but failed to find audiences – namely BoJack Horseman stablemate Tuca & Bertie – Netflix’s television output is as prodigious as it is popular. Recent figures demonstrate that while its film catalogue has shrunk by 40% since 2014, the amount of TV content has increased by 37%.
The reality is that television, by nature of the amount of time it takes to consume a series compared to a film, provides Netflix and its competitors with content that is ‘stickier’ and keeps people coming back for longer. While this isn’t always to the benefit of the show (recall that Netflix’s collaborations with Marvel were criticised for feeling bloated and each being a few episodes too long ), it keeps people on the platforms for longer.
As evidence of quite how valuable television content is for streaming services, remember that Netflix paid Warner $100 million to keep Friends on the platform throughout 2019, and it was seen as a bargain. The reason? When it comes to streaming services, exclusive shows and films are the jewels in the crown, and when a service doesn’t have those proven, guaranteed hits, it has to try other things.