Netflix is famously one of the most cash-happy entertainment companies in the world. Only Disney spends more per year on acquiring and producing content, with the streamer expected to spend something on the order of $15 billion on new shows and movies in 2019 alone. Now that insatiable hunger for Grade-A entertainment slurry to funnel into people’s eyeholes has hit an exciting new milestone, with a study revealing that, in 2018, Netflix added more “Originals” to its programming library than licensed content from other studios—something that would have been absolutely baffling back in the days when we were still calling online content “webisodes,” and Netflix had nothing to its name but nascent “maybe this will work” shows like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.
Of course, as with any discussion of Netflix—the home of “We don’t need to show your our ratings, but we assure you that they’re good”—we have to make sure we dial in on our terms here. “Netflix Originals” is a surprisingly wide umbrella, after all, covering shows produced by the company, shows it produces in association with more traditional studios (including OITB), and also whole shows and films it picks up in foreign markets and then imports to the U.S. Still, the data from U.K. research firm Ampere Analysis seems pretty clear: Fully 51 percent of the titles that Netflix added in the U.S. in 2018 carried the “Original” label.
This has been a long time coming, of course, as Netflix has steadily moved to make itself a fresh name in content production, and not just “those people who send you the DVDs.” (They do still send the DVDs, though. Don’t get mad at us, DVD people! We know you’re out there, and you’re very vocal!) Now, those recent acquisitions still only bump the percentage of Original shows and movies on the service up to 11 percent, but still—that’s out of thousands of available titles, and it’s way more than any of its streaming competitors can claim. (According to Deadline, Hulu’s only operating at 1 percent original material.)
As Deadline notes, there are a couple of major reasons Netflix is so hungry for this stuff. The biggest, though, is probably protective. As illustrated by what happened with its crop of Disney-owned Marvel shows, the up-and-comer just doesn’t want to be at the mercy of companies that increasingly view it as a rival for the material it requires to function. The solution: Make its own shit, in the hopes of maintaining its place on the top of an increasingly crowded mountain, as more and more competitors make their way into the streaming world.