When Netflix got started, it was largely regarded as a novelty act. Competing alongside virtually every video store out there, the notion of getting DVDs through the mail was sold as little more than a minor convenience. Netflix has come a long way since those early days, and with a string of Emmy wins and some truly die-hard customers on hand, is Netflix’s hard-fought quest for respect finally at its end? The answer is not as clear as you might think.
In some ways, yes, Netflix’s quest for respect has reached a satisfactory conclusion. The platform has won 44 Emmy awards for its various series, and that’s no mean feat. The last time we saw such a haul, it was by CBS all the way back in 1974.
Wrap your head around that one; this is a record that had stood firm for 47 years. Moreover, CBS got its start way back in 1927 in the radio days. It took CBS 47 years to reach that milestone. Netflix, meanwhile, was founded in 1997. And that was the DVD era; Netflix didn’t start creating original series until 2013. So Netflix took as much as 24 years to match CBS, or as little as 8, depending on how you want to look at it.
Netflix is now one of the leaders in streaming content. Better yet, its customer base is so sticky it might as well be an adhesive. Earlier this month, a Wurl Analytics study found that Netflix has the lowest churn of any of the major streaming services. Netflix’s churn—the rate at which it loses customers—is about two percent in North America. By comparison, Disney+ and Hulu each had four percent in North America.
Just to top it off, Netflix has plans to keep the streak, hopefully, alive. Peter Friedlander, Netflix’s head of US and Canada scripted series, noted that “…some incredible shows are in the pipeline.” Whether those shows will be ready for next Emmy season or not is as yet unclear, but Netflix is ready to go.
As Netflix has finally emerged victorious in its quest for respect, it has now fallen headlong into a new quest: survival. The circumstances that made Netflix great are simply no longer in play. Netflix no longer competes with every video store out there; it competes instead with every other streaming service out there. Networks are no longer regarding Netflix as the easy place to park its antiques to get some of that sweet licensing cash; just ask CBS, who moved 15 series’ worth of content onto the Pluto TV service just days ago.
Now Netflix must not only tackle incumbent services like Hulu, it also now needs to take on the rising stars of network television everywhere. Paramount+ pulls in many of CBS’ greats as well as the other Viacom content out there. Peacock is doing brisk business for NBC. And of course, there’s Disney’s increasingly potent titan….
Netflix has made great strides over the years. It’s earned the respect of the industry. Undoubtedly everyone involved in the top brass at Blockbuster Video is kicking themselves to this day over not buying Netflix when they had the chance. But Netflix is no longer an unusual development. It’s one of many now. It’s got a lot of experience and a solid base to work from, but it’s going to need to keep pulling rabbits out of its hat in order to fend off the rising tide of competition. And it’s not likely to have the access to catalog titles from the legacy networks it once did to help it, either.