If you think Netflix has a lot of original content now, hold onto your butts. The streaming service launched 450 hours of original programming in 2015, which not only saw an increase in original series but also the launch of Netflix’s first original film, Beasts of No Nation—which, to be fair, was acquired by Netflix after it was produced. However, we’ve merely seen the tip of the iceberg. Speaking at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference on Tuesday, CFO David Wells (via Variety) said that Netflix is aiming towards having half of its content be original productions within the next few years, with the other half made up of licensed TV shows and movies.
In 2016 alone, Netflix plans to launch 600 hours of original programming, and we’ve heard the streaming service say before that the endgame is launching a new original production every single week of the year. In an era where there’s already too much TV, this may come as both good and bad news.
If you’re asking how in the world Netflix can keep up its quality with this much original programming, the answer is it probably won’t. Wells noted that not every show needs to be an Orange Is the New Black-sized hit:
“We don’t necessarily have to have home runs… We can also live with singles and doubles and triples especially commensurate with their cost.”
Indeed, singles and doubles are the hallmark of any successful TV network. USA skimped by pretty much exclusively with these fairly low-cost, medium-popularity shows like Suits and Royal Pains before the prestige drama Mr. Robot came along. And even a network like FX has Tyrant and The Strain to balance out The Americans and Fargo. Netflix has arguably already treaded into this territory with shows like Fuller House and The Ranch.
While we’re now a long ways away from the expensive launch of House of Cards, it does feel like we’re in the midst of a tide change for Netflix. The network just cancelled its first series in Bloodline, announcing that the upcoming third season will be its last owing to the high cost of the series versus presumably lower viewership. Therein lies the rub: since Netflix refuses to release ratings numbers, we really have no idea who’s watching what aside from what Netflix tells us.
The streaming service is also delving into the feature film world in a big way, acquiring the package for Bright for a whopping $90 million, which is a sci-fi actioner starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, to be directed by Suicide Squad helmer David Ayer. How can they afford to bulk up their programming with 50% original content? Now that Netflix is so popular, licenses for films and TV shows are becoming more expensive as studios understand how lucrative having a show like Friends or Gilmore Girls On Demand can be, which means the price to license a show or package of films is coming close to the price for actually creating a new show wholly owned by Netflix. Moreover, Netflix recently shifted all U.S. subscribers to a standard $9.99 plan, increased from $7.99. Wells even noted that of customers who cancel Netflix, somewhere between 33% and 50% eventually return.
And thus Netflix’s path to world domination continues. It’s interesting to see the streaming service slowly become one of the major homes for prestige entertainment, as two David Fincher projects fell apart at HBO only to see the House of Cards director return to Netflix for a new series called Mind Hunter. And with low-profile shows like Stranger Things breaking out in a big way, we now know Netflix users will find quality content on their own—they don’t necessarily need a big name star or director to convince them to watch. It’s not TV, it’s Netflix.