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  • Yahshua H.

Netflix has a problem, and it's not the shared accounts or (only) the price.

They must not be having a good time in the Netflix offices: the announcement in the first quarter of 2022 that they have lost 200,000 subscribers for the first time in a decade has led to a tremendous stock market crash. Netflix has initiated a couple of emergency plans. First, with a battery of cheaper subscriptions with advertising. Second, putting an end to the bargain of unlimited account sharing.

Family subscriptions with four simultaneous connections have long been an absolute bargain due to the laxity with which Netflix allowed millions of users to share an account outside the home of the primary subscriber. According to the report to investors, more than 100 million households are watching Netflix without paying what they should (30 million in the US and Canada, according to the information to investors). I have explained how Netflix detects this unauthorized use and how the new sub-accounts will work.

But it gives the impression that this problem, already commented on by Netflix itself, is just the tip of the iceberg: there is an obvious problem with the image of the company itself, against which its strategy of being the one with the most releases has played out. Do, all the time, continuously. His overwhelming schedule of releases, which led him to release 79 films a month in 2020 (and has not slowed down since then), has ended up imposing the widespread belief, confirmed by the evidence, that not everything has the same quality.

It does not matter that Netflix has openly declared that it will focus on improving the quality of its releases. It doesn't matter that for some time, the platform has made an effort to be more transparent with its viewing figures, leaving behind the confusing criterion that a couple of minutes was enough to count as a full viewing because there may be a certain general feeling that Netflix is a content churrería, where quantity prevails over quality.

This strategy of launching a couple of more careful products and filling the catalog with filler products made sense when Netflix was almost the only one (there was a time when HBO had no streaming platform and Disney +, Apple TV +, and Prime Video did not exist. .. and he doesn't do that much). The competition has led to this "more is better even if it is worse" of the platform becoming evident.

more people in the room

The point is that things have changed concerning the times Netflix announced that volume of releases. To begin with, the most obvious: the competition. Although, at the moment, no one overshadows the significant number of subscribers on the platform, Disney + and HBO Max are not only on their heels in terms of the number of subscribers. It is that their catalogs are tremendously competitive: Disney + has Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, plus its dean arsenal of productions and franchises. And in HBO Max, Warner is one of the few production companies that remain dedicated to the cinematographic blockbuster (there are 'Dune' and 'The Batman' to corroborate it) and has the entire catalog of DC heroes, in addition to the television prestige of HBO.

And the rest are not exactly resting on their laurels. Just yesterday, Prime Video announced that it would simultaneously release the entire Bond franchise with the arrival of May, and the strength of the catalog background that the acquisition of MGM gives it is not insignificant. Against all this, Netflix is ​​running out of millionaire franchises (perhaps the transfer to Disney+ of the series with Marvel characters that it treasured until recently and gave it so much prestige and success years ago is the perfect symbol of the end of an era).

Netflix has a few powerful and genuinely owned properties left, such as 'Stranger Things, 'The Crown,' 'Money Heist,' or 'The Bridgertons.' Their attempts to open franchises in feature film format, such as 'Red Alert', are (they claim) with the support of the public. Still, except for exceptional cases such as 'Roma' or 'The Irishman,' they do not completely get rid of their TV airs -movies on steroids. They are not his only successes, but with many others, such as 'Arcane' or 'The Squid Game,' the idea of ​​surprise success prevails, of hits that take the platform itself by surprise.

Netflix's price has risen by no less than 50% in four years, reaching the 17.99 euros that the premium plan costs. Compared to Disney + or HBO Max, it's an abyss. Apple TV + and Amazon Prime are cheaper.

The problem of episode bingeing.

The situation is rounded off with a controversial topic that is not talked about much, but that is part of the very DNA of Netflix: binge-watching, the appearance of entire seasons on the same day of the premiere. It is a tactic that facilitates mass conversation at first but soon leads the viewer's attention to go in another direction. You just have to compare how the Marvel series of Disney + or the most notable premieres of HBO Max perform compared to the exhausting avalanche of tweets generated by the Netflix series generate … the first weekend.

Binge-watching reinforces the idea of ​​"content dump, regardless of its quality," which almost all its competitors have abandoned. It is easy to compare with, perhaps, the platform whose perception is diametrically opposite: Apple TV +. More or less like their series, their technical finish and the feeling that they come to light when they are finished and do not cover a demanding schedule of constant releases give the platform a very different prestige. His last big premiere, 'Severance,' has benefited from those weekly premieres: it has helped the rhythm and development of the story, but it has been talked about twice, in its theatrical premiere and the conclusion of the season, nine weeks apart.

The only other platform that kicked off binge-watching, possibly because it had every intention of looking at itself in the Netflix mirror, was Prime Video. This was the case with such emblematic series as 'The Boys', which in its first season came suddenly and in the second a week premiere was chosen. Even today, Prime Video continues to do so with series like 'Upload,' but just look at how the platform is opting for a more traditional broadcast with long-awaited and ambitious releases like 'Outer Range.'

Limitations to shared accounts: the lace

The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the split account limitations will make Netflix's situation better or worse. Because it will force many subscribers to consider whether they are interested in Netflix content, now many people who watch Netflix because they have it thanks to a friend or relative who is a subscriber will be forced to subscribe or choose which platform they are interested in.

As we mentioned a few months ago, sharing accounts leads to particular dynamics that benefit Netflix even if it loses money: several people pay Netflix together, but even if one wants to leave it, they don't because, at that moment, someone close to them is in the middle of a series. That shared account feeds back into itself, but when the quality of the catalog drops, nothing stops a single user from saving that fee.

Be it one thing or the other, it is a leap into the void for Netflix, which is too immersed in the vicious circle of its programming (now it cannot eliminate binge-watching or halve the rate of releases) to back down. . Netflix has to stay Netflix, but with the ban on shared accounts... will that be enough?


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