Netflix Is Finally Adding a Streaming Roulette Feature as It Clinches 200 Million Subscriptions

Illustration for article titled Netflix Is Finally Adding a Streaming Roulette Feature as It Clinches 200 Million Subscriptions
Image: Pascal Le Segretain (Getty Images)

Netflix has officially amassed 200 million subscribers, but the company isn’t planning to rest on its laurels.

As it continues to compete with services like Disney+ and HBO Max, Netflix plans to continue to improve its user experience to keep viewers returning. It introduced its “worth the wait,” “top 10,” and “new and popular” sections last year to help with discovery, and Netflix says it’s preparing to roll out another new feature as well. In the first half of this year, the service will add a tool to allow Netflix to pick a title based on a user’s preferences rather than requiring them to browse for something to watch.

“Our members can basically indicate to us that they want to skip browsing entirely, click one button, and we’ll pick a title for them just to instantly play. And that’s a great mechanism that’s worked quite for members in that situation,” COO and chief product officer Greg Peters said during an earnings Q&A. Asked whether the service was going to call the tool “I’m feeling lucky,” Peters said it would be called something different at launch.

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We’ve reached out to Netflix for more information about how titles are suggested and will update this post when we hear back.

Netflix said in its fourth-quarter shareholders letter released Tuesday that it managed to secure 8.5 million more paid subscriptions to help the streaming giant cross the 200 million mark. All told, the company added a total of 37 million paid subscriptions during 2020, no doubt helped by the surge in TV viewing and streaming that resulted from lockdown orders and quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. For some context, Netflix says memberships were up 23 percent from the previous year in the fourth quarter.

With the arrival of so many new streaming services competing for consumer money and viewing time, Netflix has more competition than ever before. But the company says it’s been expecting this new competition—including from heavyweights like Disney and WarnerMedia—for “many years.” Key to its response is its head-spinning churn of original content and latest successes like the most recent season of The Crown, Barbarians, and Selena: The Series.

Its content strategy is also boosted with the release of its international films in outside markets. The company specifically cited an example of the French heist film Lupin, which enjoyed a no. 2 spot in its U.S. top 10 list. In 2020, the company also released a number of highly successful originals during the year that enjoyed critical claim and cultural impact. Tiger King, Queen’s Gambit, and Bridgerton were three such home runs, the company said.

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Even with the pandemic significantly delaying production timelines and release dates, Netflix says it’s still on track to release at least one original film every week of 2021. Plus, the company said it has a staggering 500-plus titles either in post-production or ready to hit its service.

Most surprising, though, was Netflix’s claim that it is “very close” to being cash-flow positive and no longer needs to raise external financing. Additionally, the company plans “on repaying the bond at maturity out of cash on hand, as we are currently well above our minimum cash needs.” More information on this front will likely be shared during its investors call later today.

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All in all, it’s been an incredible year for Netflix. And it seems that in spite of the number of competitors who’d like to swipe its crown, Netflix remains king in the streaming space—for now, anyway.

This post has been updated to add additional information from Netflix’s earnings call.

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DISCUSSION

Is this different from the “Play Something” option that’s been in my app for the last couple of weeks?