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Netflix to Launch “I’m Feeling Lucky” Button, Discusses Plans for Theatrical Releases & Linear Channels

Jason Gurwin

Yesterday, Netflix confirmed what we were all expecting, announcing they saw a stellar amount of growth in 2020. During their Q4 2020 earnings report, the company announced they reached 203.66 million subscribers in Q4 2020. That was a massive 8.51 million subscribers added this quarter (compared to 8.76 million in the same quarter last year). For the full year, Netflix added a record 37m paid memberships.

So, what’s next for a service that hardly needs any promo in order to garner subscribers? Well, during their earnings call, Netflix execs talked about plans for expansion, a possible turn into linear viewing as well as the possibilities of putting their wildly popular original films in theaters.

Last October, news that Netflix had discontinued their 30-day free trial across all markets came out. In places such as India, however, the streaming giant launched StreamFest, giving free access to Netflix for all users for a solid 48 hours. Response to StreamFest was enormous and the company is now looking at ways to make that data useful.

“The primary learning, which is very evident, is that there’s a lot of interest amongst consumers in India to try Netflix. We had millions of people that had access for a 48-hour period to the service. And now we go through the more difficult part of actually analyzing how that interest through the specific tactic translates into sustained incremental growth,” stated COO and chief product officer, Greg Peters.

“And we’re still working through the details of that. And obviously, based on what we see there, we’ll inform how we think about how we leverage that tactic again or how do we improve on it, what are places we think it might be leverageable.”

With Netflix users flocking to the service for myriad of reasons— be it movies, TV shows, animation, scripted or unscripted— the goal for the company is to ensure that each person gets the content they want in the easiest possible way. Their testing of a linear channel in France is an example of offering something different on the platform. “It’s still unclear how [the linear feed] is going to work out. So we’re still looking at that one,” Peters stated.

In true Netflix fashion, the company is working on another feature to help you out with that viewing fatigue. “[There’s a] new feature that we’ve been testing and we’re going to now roll out globally because it’s really working for us, where our members can basically indicate to us that they just 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 well for our members in that situation,” Peters revealed.

Company co-CEO and founder Reed Hastings (jokingly) suggested they call the feature “I’m feeling lucky,” though Peters insists his team will “come up with something better than that. So stand by for the specific verbiage.”

As it pertains to bringing their original films to the movie theaters, Netflix is on board with the new hybrid model that is being established by WarnerMedia where movies debut both in theaters and on the streaming service on the same day.

“We’ve never had any issue with movies being in theaters. Our biggest issue has been that you had to commit to this very long window of exclusivity to get access to any theaters,” co-CEO Ted Sarandos stated. “That’s been the biggest challenge. So if those windows are going to collapse and we’d have easier access to films to show our films in theaters, I’d love to have consumers be able to make the choice between seeing it out or seeing it at home, which is becoming the norm during COVID, certainly. And we’ll see how much that sticks.”

Hastings added, “Hopefully, with Warner Bros. sort of COVID move, what we’ll see post-COVID, like the second half of the year, is that people both go to the theaters in significant numbers and watch their films and their premier simultaneously on HBO Max. And then that will really set a path where simultaneous is good for the film, helps both online and on streaming and then also in the theaters. But we have to wait to post-COVID to get a clean read of that.”

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