Streaming giant Netflix, which has been aggressively pursuing an original content strategy at the same time it’s lost a great deal of its licensed content, says it is on track to have created over 1,000 original shows and movies by the end of the year.
According to Quartz, chief content officer Ted Sanders announced that Netflix will hit four-figure territory by the close of 2018—and will only be speeding up the frenetic pace they’ve achieved since launching their first original, House of Cards, about five years ago. That doesn’t mean necessarily refer to shows and movies exclusively produced in house, as the tally includes exclusively commissioned or licensed material, but an astonishing 470 of the productions will be released this year alone:
Roughly half of its originals—470 series, films, and other productions—are slated to be released between now and the end of the year, the Netflix executive added at a MoffettNathanson investor event on Monday (May 15). More than 90% of Netflix subscribers watch its originals regularly, he said, though he did not define what that means.
“Original” has different meanings for Netflix, too. Some Netflix originals, like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, are licensed from other studios and branded as originals. Others, like Stranger Things and 3%, are self-produced by Netflix. It’s trying to do more of the latter, so it has more control over the properties.
This is good news if you’re into Netflix’s originals, which have varied from critically acclaimed documentary series like Wild Wild Country to content that seems calculated more to suck up binge-watching hours, like Peaky Blinders, a show about British gangsters that tuck razor blades in their hats. It is perhaps not great news if you miss the time when Netflix was more interested in what comedian Patton Oswalt somewhat famously dubbed Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.
As Bloomberg reported last year, the data that drives streaming services like Netflix seems to result in them emphasizing newer, flashier content to the growing exclusion of older classics that might hold more cultural significance:
The dearth of classic films to stream isn’t confined to holiday fare. Hollywood’s most critically acclaimed work doesn’t pop up often on pay-by-the-month platforms. Of the 25 greatest American films ever made, only six are available for subscribers to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime service, Hulu or Netflix. Of the most recent 25 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards, only seven are available on the same streaming platforms.
Netflix doesn’t necessarily see this as a hard trade-off between owning more of its content and providing good content, according to Quartz, with Sarandos telling the audience that data helps them “size the projects better” and split the right amount of resources appropriately between audiences with different interests. And there’s a lot of resources to go around: Sarandos said that 85 percent of all new spending is going to original productions, or around $6.8 billion in 2018.
In any case, while network TV and big movie studios often come out with huge flops—big-budget films in particular seem to have been getting much worse—do keep in mind that Netflix has come out with some pretty shlocky stuff as of late too. For example, it came out ahead by surprise launching the very bad Cloverfield Paradox as part of a post-Super Bowl tie-in, and it built up a heck of a lot of buzz around the critically reviled Bright. In both cases, Netflix turned its considerable PR machine to spinning films that (probably) would have been box-office bombs as must-watch TV.
As Quartz noted, Sarandos says 90 percent of Netflix subscribers watch originals regularly, though did not clarify how that definition of success is determined. When the Netflix model works, viewers get to watch shows that might not have ever been made on networks that have to have broad appeal with mass audiences. But when it doesn’t, it seems kind of like Facebook: Trying to push something, anything that ekes a few more minutes of attention from a captive audience.