US online video subscription service Netflix has committed to doubling its original production output to 31 series in 2016, as well as indicating a large slate of feature movie production, citing ten projects launched or in development.
The service’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, speaking at the UBS Media and Communications Conference, also underlined the service’s history of production investment: 30 children’s TV shows, 12 documentary features and ten stand-up comedy specials.
Some of Netflix’s major 2016 series have already been announced. They will include further Marvel series as well as second seasons of Grace and Frankie and the lavish Marco Polo. The first European originals from France and the UK will also premiere next year. Movie releases will include the second Crouching Tiger movie plus Adam Sandler titles as part of the four-movie production deal which Netflix has made with the Hollywood star.
But this is a handful compared with the figure of 31 series. If ten Netflix movies are in production, there also remain another five which are not yet announced, meaning the service has many more major projects in the 2016 pipeline. This is further proof of Netflix’s aggressive increase in scripted investment, whose volume next year will be on a par with a broadcast network - ABC made 28 drama and comedy shows last season, while Fox made 19. Netflix has so far spent $2.4 billion in 2013 and $3.2 billion in 2014 on programming (originated and acquired), which is around 69% of its streaming revenues for both years. This rivals the investment of both US and European multinational programmers such as Sky UK ($3.7 billion in 2014) or ProsiebenSat 1 ($1.3 billion in the same year). It also outstrips Amazon’s spend (which was $1.5 billion in 2014).
New investment may go partially to original series made across the world, but internationally-viable, US-based drama and comedy is likely to remain the core of Netflix’s commissions. Factual and reality content, while not completely absent from Netflix’s originals lineup, (US cookery documentary Chef’s Table, Japanese series Terrace House), is seen as less repeatable, and therefore less of a subscriber draw.
It is also another sign that the service is focusing on quality, not quantity, of content. This can be seen in other features of Netflix’s strategy, such as the dropping of deals like the Epix movie agreement, which was not renewed in 2015. This commitment to relatively small increase in volume of content at a high price shows Netflix is determined to stand out.
This commitment, and particularly the multiple re-commissions of earlier shows, speaks to the success of Netflix original series among subscribers and the service’s conviction that unique content drives uptake and usage. This is still hard to quantify or break down while there is an absence of show-by-show ratings or any other relative viewing measures, which Netflix does not publish. For now, then, this self-confidence and redoubled investment must be the evidence of Netflix’s own shows’ability to drive subscriber engagement.