Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is trying to be all things to all people, and so far the firm’s strategy has worked. The company’s future relies on its ability to produce content that can transcend audience lines. It needs to appeal to broad general audiences with sit coms, while opening itself up to niches with things like anime and Bollywood flicks.
The new TV series from Netflix appears to have failed in this regard. Disjointed is a comedy starring Kathy Bates that just premiered on the streaming service. It stars Kathy Bates as a pot advocate on the eve of recreational legalization in the state of California.
So far all of that sounds at least fine. The result, at least according to critics, is decidedly less so. In a review for Rolling Stone Chris Ostendorf says that the show “feels like a collage of jokes pieced together from better scripts”. The review gets worse from there.
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CNN says the comedy “runs on fumes” and “feels like a title in search of a show.” The NY Post claims that the show features a “wasted” Kathy Bates in more ways than one.
This is the line that Netflix has to approach carefully as it tries to appeal to niche audiences. Those groups have their own in-culture, and they know when somebody is pandering to them, or when there’s an authenticity to a TV show or movie.
On top of Disjoined, Netflix is emerging this week with a weed tie in to drum up some publicity. The titles of the marijuana strains, which will be sold in states with legal marijuana, are jokes from Netflix series. Banana Stand Kush is the Arrested Development inspired strain (though Big Yellow Joint might have been more appropriate). Netflix won’t profit from the sale of the herb due to federal prohibition.
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The minor backlash to the new Netflix comedy is to be expected. The firm has an inbuilt secret weapon to deal with this sort of issue, however. If people don’t like Disjointed, it will get low ratings and word of mouth won’t convince others to tune in. For a normal, scheduled, TV network that doesn’t happen. When people flick on the TV and see something they don’t like, they associate it with the brand.
Netflix, it seems, is somewhat immune to that as long as its recommendation algorithm does its job. Right now the first people to watch and rate the show are becoming taste makers for the rest of the audience. Even if the critics don’t like the show, the firm will try to figure out if it appeals to some niche or another.
Right now Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos are working on all sorts of shows for all sorts of different kinds of people. Some of those shows are going to fail, and some of them are going to be downright offensive. What matters for those holding Netflix stock, however, is whether or not the firm’s strategy will result in more users or less.
So far, apparently through the beauty of its algorithms, the team have managed to massively increase its number of subscribers. The firm’s shares have jumped by more than 30 percent since the start of the year, and it’s now worth more than $70 billion.
One bad apple may spoil the bunch, but when it comes to Netflix shows, the firm’s algorithm has a way to quarantine them. That’s an incredible skill for any brand to have, and it’s one that Reed Hasting seems to have mastered.