As was pointed out in our Newswire about FilmStruck’s acquisition of the Warner Archive streaming catalog yesterday, the metaphor of the streaming service as digital-age video store is imperfect at best, given that the most well-curated streaming service can’t compete with even a mom-and-pop video store in terms of the breadth and depth of its catalog. With Netflix, the metaphor becomes even more fraught, as the service’s master plan to become movie studio, premium cable network, and video store all in one has led it to noticeably neglect that last category over the past couple of years. Specifically, the number of films on Netflix dropped precipitously between 2010 and 2018—by 21 percent, as data from Flixable reveals. That void is filled by a 21 percent increase in the number of TV shows available for streaming on Netflix, though the total number of titles on Netflix in general also dropped from 7,285 to 5,579 between 2010 and 2018.
And as Netflix continues its push into original content, expect the selection of non-Netflix films to continue to shrink. A new report in Variety says that Netflix plans to spend more than $8 billion on content in 2018, producing somewhere in the range of 700 original TV shows and movies worldwide. Netflix CFO David Wells says that the service has “no religion” on where it gets its content, and that “people don’t care where the stories come from… We don’t necessarily have to do it ourselves.” But if Netflix really doesn’t need the titles on its service to be native to Netflix, why produce the equivalent of more than 10 percent of its current catalog—a number that already includes quite a few Netflix originals—in one year?
Again, Netflix’s corporate strategy here seems to be throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. As Wells tells Variety, his attitude is “Let’s continue to add content—it’s working, it’s driving growth.” But if users who depend on Netflix’s (shitty) algorithm to show them what’s on the service only see the tiny slice of content that Netflix wants them to see, before long, there will be only Netflix. Not only that, but Netflix’s subpar marketing of anything less than a would-be marquee film title—did you know, for example, the director of Rec has a new movie out called Veronica, and it debuted on Netflix yesterday?—means that, as Netflix slowly strangles competition from outside studios, big-money films like Bright and The Cloverfield Paradox will eat up the majority of the company’s internal resources as well. (Netflix says that it’s significantly expanding its marketing budget in 2018, but won’t indicate if that increase will go toward amping up its film efforts or increasing the already-adequate marketing of its original series.) A funny way to make us nostalgic for the heyday of video stores, that.