We Need to Talk About Netflix

Netflix is in trouble. At least, according to Wall Street it is. If the money demons aren’t happy, sacrifices are inevitably going to be made. Instead of increasing their subscription numbers in their first quarter by 2.5 million as they had projected, Netflix actually lost 200,000. 

I’ve done some extensive market research from my Covid quarantine; consisting of a data pool of me and my cat, I have come up with a handful of suggestions for how Netflix can stop haemorrhaging subscribers. For the sake of transparency, it should be noted that the aforementioned feline companion does not pay for his Netflix subscription, and shares my password. He also doesn’t watch Netflix. Or pay rent. 

  1. Stop cancelling great shows. I should clarify here that by great, I mean in the objective sense. This shouldn’t be restricted to shows that receive a critical seal of approval in Onscreen Offscreen or on Oxygen.ie (although, admittedly this is very important), but to shows that have an engaged and active viewership. If shows attract and maintain audiences (think about the infuriating treatment of GLOW, or the recent, brilliant Archive 81), why would you bin them? If series lose their continuity, subscriptions become significantly easier to cancel once you finish that show, or if the show is ended on your behalf. They become less of a necessary part of the monthly budget, and more sacrificial when needing to reduce expenses.
  2. Rediscover quality and support artists. Back in its earlier days, Netflix seemed like a bright and welcoming space for a diverse set of creative voices. One of its first original shows, Lilyhammer, is an American-Norwegian co-production that stars Steven Van Zandt from The Sopranos as a New Yorker gangster taking refuge in Lilyhammer, Norway. It has a great cast (many of whom show up in another, more recent Netflix show, Norsemen), and is the kind of unique production that the more recent offerings smother. Netflix doesn’t have the same reputation of interference as the traditional Hollywood studios, but when creatives cannot feel confident in a show’s security and longevity, bold and creative storytelling will find another home. 
  3. Don’t release as much. There is an oversaturation of content. Not a lot of it is even promoted, and having so much released week-in week-out overwhelms the platform. Wow, there’s a new Netflix show? No, there’s at least twenty this week alone. As discussed in a previous column, I’ve already worked out that you have to take a week’s sick leave just to keep up with one new release on a platform, let alone several. Comparatively, Apple TV+ has grown its reputation as a merchant of quality original content. By releasing a new title every week or two, the platform maintains a mystique of prestige. It’s also significantly cheaper, has this year’s Oscar Best Picture, and several different reasons (Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, Pachinko, Servant, Slow Horses…) you should subscribe. Netflix has many titles that make the subscription worthwhile, but it’s hard to find them under the convoluted and inconsistent mess of their catalogue. Yes, I’m looking at you, Diana: The Musical (Christopher Ashley).
  4. Stop increasing prices. The first time it made sense. The second time was a little cheekier. After the most recent hike, the cost no longer seems like good value for money. I personally know a few people who cancelled their subscriptions as a result. 
  5. Add a student discount. MUBI, Amazon, and Spotify do it. So do cinemas. More money saved means more to spend on catnip, so Shuggie is in on this one too. 

What’s Onscreen

For those currently missing the delicious French show (on Netflix, of course), Call My Agent!, the London talent agency equivalent, Ten Percent, will be arriving on Prime Video on April 28. Expect high-energy drama, outrageous cameos, and the kind of metatextual layering that Nic Cage would enjoy.

Casablanca Beats (Nabil Ayouch) is out on Friday, and is as if Dead Poets Society met Moroccan rap. The result is this curious little film, which certainly wears its heart on its sleeve, and I found it cuddled mine too. It’s a little forced in places with some strange character motivations and behaviours, albeit for the most part, this is an engaging portrait of the transformational power of the arts and the community formed in the creative process.

The final season of Better Call Saul has returned to Netflix on Tuesdays, and is one of those titles that alone would warrant the subscription charge for the season run. For me, this series is better than Breaking Bad (and I loved that show), because the stakes feel all the more delicate and human, and also Rhea Seehorn and Tony Dalton. Being a prequel, we have some idea of where characters will end up, but there is still so much left to discover in the midst of this spectacular saga.

For the cinéastes among you, The Souvenir: Part II (Joanna Hogg) is now available to stream on MUBI. I found the first instalment to be a little tedious and plodding, but ultimately rewarding of my time investment. The stakes for the follow-up seem to align more directly with the film student experience that I was perhaps led to believe the first one encapsulated. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Sam Raimi) arrives next week, and I’m excited to see Raimi’s directorial return to the big screen, and just how he’s going to find a way to get Bruce Campbell as Ash into the MCU. In case you missed it, Bruce Campbell actually cameoed in Smithfield’s Light House for a special screening of Evil Dead II (Raimi). As if you needed more reasons to head out to the big screen. 

For those jaded by superheroes, Wild Men (Thomas Daneskov) is your other offering for May 6. Martin (Rasmus Bjerg) is a modern guy who, fed up with contemporary life and society, decides to pack it all in, and become a wild mountain man. Unfortunately, this isn’t deemed interesting enough as a premise (when it is under interrogation), so a crime thriller subplot barges in, and drives the plot to a predictable conclusion. It’s charming, but so is a walk in the park at this time of year.