The observation “Wow, everyone has a Netflix special these days!” has already become hack. Netflix has been inching its way toward becoming a full-blown standup monopoly, putting out 25 specials last year and promising to release a new one every week in 2017. With those numbers, odds are that you the reader will probably have your own Netflix special within the next few years. That is, if Netflix is still around. A recent report from Business Insider revealed that while subscriber numbers are up, the streaming network is spending more than they’re making, with over $2 billion of negative cash flow in 2017 alone. Netflix is operating on the “spend money to make money” principle, especially in the comedy category. They reportedly spent $60 million between Dave Chappelle’s three specials and $100 million in a deal with Jerry Seinfeld that includes two new specials and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Will more standup specials bring enough new subscribers to close the big cash gap? Not likely. Although Netflix refuses to disclose its viewing numbers, HBO’s President of Programming Casey Bloys told the Television Critics Association that “as a category, standup specials account for less than one percent of usage on [HBO] Go and Now.”
So how can Netflix make its money back on all of these specials? By increasing brand loyalty. It appears that one of Netflix’s marketing strategies is a self-referential product placement in pretty much every special it releases. How else would you explain this?
By having comedians with Netflix specials remind the viewing audience that they are, in fact, watching a Netflix special, the streaming network is reinforcing its position as the big box store of comedy specials, the Walmart of streaming services, the place you keep returning to for all of your comedy streaming needs, even if you have to question your consumer ethics from time to time.
Or maybe the whole “Netflix” thing in comedy specials is just parallel thinking.
h/t to reader Matthew Coker for the tip.