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Is Netflix becoming more and more like "TV before Netflix"?

After decreasing its most unusual series, the platform is now interested in generalist audiences

Is Netflix becoming more and more like TV before Netflix? After decreasing its most unusual series, the platform is now interested in generalist audiences

Nowadays, Netflix is something very different from the platform that represented the future of television. Although at a slow pace, the world's best-known streaming service is becoming more and more similar to traditional TV channels. As several observers claim, the catalogue of films and TV series is a far cry from that of the early years of the platform, and is closer to that of generalist TV. Having changed the audiovisual industry, the production of video content and its distribution, Netflix has stopped producing most of the unusual series and films for which it had become famous. In this sense, Netflix can no longer be considered a 'disruptive' service - a term used to refer to a company whose success cannot be compared to its predecessors. For years, proposing itself in direct opposition to traditional television channels, Netflix had been betting on different productions, attracting a large audience now dissatisfied with television.

Unlike the music industry, which has remained in the hands of record companies who have managed to prevent platforms such as Spotify from becoming content producers, Netflix started almost immediately to produce films and original series in order to diversify its catalogue. But the platform's users have multiplied so much that they also include viewers close to the 'classic' television scene, so to speak, and therefore less inclined to watch the atypical content that distinguished Netflix. This is why the company now focuses on more conventional productions such as Wednesday, Stranger Things, or The Queen's Gambit, and discontinues particular but critically acclaimed series such as 1899. In contrast to today, Netflix never wanted to accumulate views, but to win awards and make people talk about itself, in the press and on social networks; in this way it chose to keep itself within a small, loyal audience - which is no longer the case.

There are several reasons for this transformation. First of all, Netflix is no longer headed by its founder Reed Hastings. Moreover, the company had to revise its strategy following the unexpected decline in the stock market. A process, this one, accelerated since Netflix announced in 2022, for the first time in its history, a drop in subscribers. Following that first loss of subscribers, the share price on the stock exchange dropped by almost 40 percentage points. Today, the company is aiming to maximise profits, trying to increase the share of subscribers at a time when the maximum number of people willing to pay for streaming seems to have been reached, and the competition, rather than aiming to gain new subscribers, is trying to take them away from other platforms. «There aren't that many $10 monthly subscriptions that people are willing to take out,» summarised the Economist.


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original sound - Netflix

Since Netflix arrived in Italy in 2015, the streaming sector has become increasingly crowded and saturated with content. Netflix still commands the market, but it must and will have to defend itself against companies that nobody would want to compete with: Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+. This is also why the company now no longer advertises itself as a service that's different from TV, but rather as an extension of traditional television. The appointment of Eleonora Andreatta as vice president of Italian content, the most important position for the company's Italian division, goes in this direction. As head of Rai Fiction for more than 20 years, Andreatta was the main person responsible for Rai's serial production. That move was seen as proof that Netflix was looking to expand its audience to include the more generalist one. It is therefore not surprising that a series such as Mare Fuori, produced by Rai Fiction, is also present on Netflix - and is in the top 10 of the most popular content.

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The introduction of a subscription level at a reduced price, but with advertising, confirms this strategy. Commercials are precisely one of the main business models of traditional television, which the company had stated in the past that it would never exploit. «Those who have followed Netflix know that I have been against the complexity of advertising and a big fan of the simplicity of subscriptions. But as much as I'm a fan of it, I'm an even bigger fan of consumer choice,» said Reed Hastings. For a long time, what characterised the company was that it did not release any data about the viewers of its films and TV series, not even to those who made those products. Today, however, in order to be able to sell advertising space, Netflix has decided to discontinue this strategy, allowing Nielsen, the company that calculates American TV ratings, to take over the viewing data of its programmes. It has also recently been announced the discontinuation of the  possibility to share accounts, a novelty that will soon be introduced worldwide. All streaming platforms allow more than one person to share the same subscription, but Netflix - after Dazn - will be among the first to impose the non-sharing of accounts outside the household, most likely tying it to the Wi-Fi network used to enjoy the content.

In Spain and Portugal, the first European countries where the account-sharing ban came into effect, parliamentary enquiries have already been raised to investigate whether Netflix's choice does not violate consumer privacy. Even the technique of releasing all episodes at the same time for a TV series is a limitation, at a time when in view of its competition it becomes essential to establish a more lasting and constant relationship with the audience. Netflix and the other streaming platforms, with the increase in competition and the characteristics of the subscription economy they have nurtured, now find themselves having to change the strategies that made them recognisable, in order to adapt to the needs of users and the market. All choices, these, which wink at traditional TV.