In March, analytics firm Nielsen reported that Netflix had become more popular than television among the Millennial generation. However, the streaming video landscape has changed a great deal in the intervening four months.
In its Q2 2019 earnings report, Netflix revealed it lost subscribers in the U.S. market for the first time since 2011. Indeed, the firm lost 130,000 American users in the second quarter. Even worse, the firm admitted that its global subscriber growth projection was off by 2.2 million users. Following these disclosures, the corporation’s stock price fell by more than 10 percent.
Now, the once-unstoppable platform looks vulnerable for the first time in a decade.
Unappealing Content and Price Hikes
During a shareholder conference call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings attributed the company’s disastrous last three months to two factors. The executive said the company didn’t release any original breakout programming in the second quarter. Indeed, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and “Lucifer” don’t have the same popular cachet as “Strangers Things” or “Orange Is the New Black.”
On the other hand, the firm’s disappointing subscriber numbers suggest that the new season of “Black Mirror” and its heavily promoted acquisition of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” didn’t bring in droves of U.S. consumers.
Hastings also said the corporation’s churn rate was higher than usual because of recent price hikes. In April, Netflix raised the price of its standard plan by $1, and its premium plans increased by $2. Still, the streaming giant has raised prices on its services four times in the last nine years, and most of those changes didn’t alienate so many core users.
The company lost 800,000 users in 2011 when it raised prices and decoupled its streaming offerings from its DVD delivery service. Since the corporation didn’t make such a drastic change recently, it seems 130,000 Americans just decided to chill without Netflix for a while. That rise in consumer disinterest is concerning because the firm spent $3 billion on content in Q2 and another $600 million advertising that programming to consumers.
Despite having access to a wealth of viewer analytics, Netflix is struggling to make new shows people want to see. As it happens, the company couldn’t have picked a worse time to become disconnected from its audience.
The Burn-In reported earlier this month that the streaming video industry is about to become considerably more competitive. For years now, Netflix’s main competition in the space has been “just okay” services like Hulu and “tire fires” like CBS All Access. But this fall, Disney and Apple will launch new subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms that will come loaded with a wealth of appealing new content.
Plus, Disney recently assumed control of Hulu with an eye toward making it a hub for the mature content it can’t host on its central SVOD. The corporation is debuting two new adult-themed Marvel TV shows on the service and will migrate FX series like “Atlanta” and “American Horror Story” to the platform.
Besides, Warner Media will be entering the fray with its HBO Max SVOD next year. At launch, the platform will feature more than 10,000 hours of star-studded “premium content.” Similarly, NBCUniversal will make a play for Netflix’s 60 million U.S. subscribers with its 2020 debuting SVOD.
While Apple’s streaming platform will feature all-new content, Disney, Warner Media, NBCUniversal’s SVODs will feature a mix of new and classic shows and movies. As a result, those three corporations are pulling their most beloved content from Netflix.
That is to say, next year the streaming giant will be competing against four new competitors with a greatly diminished library.
Change or Die
Because Netflix has managed to produce a host of successful original content, it’s not going away anytime soon. Indeed, Reed Hastings noted more than 40 million people saw “Stranger Things” season 3. The executive also revealed 25 million households watched its new crime drama “When They See Us,” and 33 million took in its nature documentary “Our Earth” within their first month of release.
But if it’s going to remain a significant player in the streaming video segment, Netflix needs to produce more hits and fewer misses. In the current media landscape, that means the firm needs to invest in more established media properties and broadly appealing programming. After all, millions of people all over the world don’t use the platform to watch “Friends” and “The Office” because of their high production values or high concepts.
Netflix became a billion-dollar brand because of its ease of access and wide variety of programming. But now in its third decade of operation, the corporation needs to codify a singular brand identity that will keep consumers interested all year round.