Streaming services live and die by original content. It’s one of the key motivators in producing—and therefore preventing—churn, it allows for better marketing, and it even offers support for charging premium prices. So when a new study emerged from Ampere Analytics showing that Netflix had one blockbuster quarter for original content, the news should come as just a little surprise. Especially when you see the numbers connected to that blockbuster quarter.
Netflix had never been one to shy away from investment in original content. Back when it was originally the place for networks and major studios to get their content some exposure to that “new online video market,” Netflix may have already seen the handwriting on the wall. It’s been steadily increasing its investment in new content for years. There have been some ups and downs along the way, certainly. The fourth quarter of 2018, for example, featured 76 released titles. Meanwhile, the first quarter of 2019 featured just 59. The second quarter of 2019 brought that number back in roaring style, featuring almost double the first quarter’s release count with 96 titles.
Naturally, the pandemic years put a crimp on production. Thankfully, Netflix had content ready to go just as demand for such content increased. A significant decline between the third quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2020’s release figures took place, likely showing us the consequences of lockdowns and production restrictions. Netflix went from 125 releases to just 105, and the decline continued from there. The first quarter of 2021 gave us 103 releases, then the second quarter yielded up just 96. The third quarter, however, came roaring back with 129 releases, and the fourth quarter, the new high water mark, gives us 129 so far, with another 14 scheduled for release before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, what does 2022 look like for Netflix originals? It’s a bit sparse. Right now, there are only 20 releases scheduled for the first quarter of 2022. The second quarter features an even more meager 10. It’s a safe bet more releases will crop up in the meantime, of course, but for now the calendar is looking thin.
Still, it’s clear that Netflix is not shying away from the challenge of keeping content coming. It’s certainly doing a better job than most. Look at competitor Disney+; where is its original content? It’s had barely a handful of titles released, and from all the reports, new content is stymied by levels-deep bureaucracy and political infighting.
Back in 2019, we released a list of everything that Disney+ would be bringing out “by 2021”. Naturally, Covid issues had a hand in this list, but the list represents less than 40 titles total. That’s not even half of what Netflix put out in a typical quarter. It’s not even enough to beat Netflix’s worst quarter in the last three years, the first quarter of 2019, with 59 releases. Granted, Disney+ has a vault to work with, but the flow of new and original content is a trickle compared to Netflix.
The good news here is that Netflix seems to understand, intimately, how vital new content is to its ongoing success. The fact that it’s also original content, controlled wholly by Netflix, doesn’t hurt matters either; it decides when that content leaves, not some other studio. With more and more studios commissioning their own streaming, it behooves Netflix to keep that original content going. Based on the numbers so far, it’s certainly made that much happen.