Over the 2010s, Netflix served as the most popular streaming service, bar none. It was already popular for its DVD service; the transition to streaming led to them becoming even more entrenched in viewers’ homes. There’s a reason the innuendo-laden expression isn’t “Hulu and chill.”
That said, there’s now a “gold rush” explosion of streaming services, with everyone wanting in on Netflix’s turf. In that light, what are Netflix’s strengths and weaknesses going forward?
A catch-all streaming service
This might be a remnant of when it was the de facto streaming service (and DVD service), but Netflix still functions as a jack-of-all-trades service. It offers a variety of material, from adult-oriented shows (such as a new “Tales of the City” miniseries) to children’s cartoons (“She-Ra”).
While Netflix is losing material to rivals (more on that below), it’s still recommended as a general-purpose streaming service.
Some Netflix originals are popular
Netflix’s originals have gained popularity since the first one, “House of Cards,” launched in 2013. Over the 2010s, “Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” “BoJack Horseman,” “Stranger Things,” and other shows have gained Netflix both subscribers and buzz. HBO engages in a similar strategy.
Netflix is the one major streaming service that’s independently owned. It isn’t reliant on a single excessively-large media conglomerate for its material; instead, Netflix makes deals with multiple companies. Netflix also carries a large amount of non-American programming, importing TV shows and movies from the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, and elsewhere.
As such, a Netflix subscription for Netflix isn’t just another income source alongside dozens of others, the way Disney+ and HBO Max are for Disney and WarnerMedia.
Hit-and-miss and/or quickly cancelled originals
Unfortunately, Netflix’s originals aren’t all sure-fire hits, with a fair number of cancellations. There’s also been stories about Netflix using originals as a means to lure in new customers (and inflate subscriber growth), but axing said shows after only a few seasons. All of this might lower incentive for subscribers to stick around?
Losing material to rival services
Netflix is also losing a lot of its popular third-party material to their original owners. Thanks to the current streaming boom, the major media conglomerates have opted to try making their own streaming services, propped up by their vast libraries of material.
That shows one downside of Netflix being independent. Without much of Disney or WarnerMedia’s material, Netflix will be more reliant on their original programming, or TV shows and movies acquired from smaller/less popular media companies.
Netflix is getting expensive for what it offers
Finally, Netflix’s price has gone up over the years, to the point its value is starting to be questioned. One reason for the price hikes is a need to pay for producing Netflix originals (one reason Netflix is $12 billion in debt). Also, Netflix doesn’t have cable companies, theme parks, or similar other lucrative income sources to rely on; thus, it’s stuck paying for material on its own.
As much as I want to support an independent company, I also note that Netflix has grown expensive for what it offers. On the pricier end, HBO Max (at $15/month) will come with a large library of WarnerMedia-owned material, from “Game of Thrones” to most of the more prominent material on DC Universe/Boomerang. There’s also Amazon Prime Video; for the same price as the most popular Netflix tier, Prime offers free two-day shipping, plus several other useful services. Meanwhile, on the cheap end is the now-famed Disney+, at almost half of Netflix’s price.
In the future, I can see people opting to axe Netflix to make room for HBO Max, or several other cheaper streaming services.
I assume Netflix will stay popular in the years to come. It’s still a useful catch-all service, and offers popular original material. However, between the rise of other streaming services, losing popular major studio material, and having an expensive price point for what it offers, Netflix likely won’t be as dominant in the 2020s as they were in the 2010s.