“Subscription growth this year could never match the lockdown-driven surge of 2020. Netflix added 1.5m net new subscribers in the second quarter. While above its own low forecast, it failed to attract anything like the 10m in the same quarter last year. Pessimists moan about the loss of almost half a million subscribers in North America and Canada — the first drop in two years.”
It’s a bizarre situation to be in. Netflix’ 2020 growth was almost unimaginable, and – like the fabled sharks that need to keep moving quickly, Netflix analysts are concerned that the company’s inability to grow at the same rate (there are even signs that it is contracting in some places) mean that it is looking at …
- refocussing on a new, older customer base while also…
- rethinking its business model and moving more resolutely into production
There’s a real consolidation going on with cash-rich platforms acquiring studios.
- Disney purchased 20th Century Fox (2020)
- Amazon is buying MGM (2021)
- The FT mentioned the Indy studio Liongate Lionsgate which has some proven franchises (Twighlight) and a streaming service of it’s own (Starz) – there’s a more detailed writeup of that option here.
What does this mean for Bectu members? It’s hard to say at the moment, but there seem to be (correct me if I’m wrong) three key issues at stake:
- what will it mean in the short-medium term for employment in the UK production sector (first-pass answer, things seem to be going swimmingly and this won’t make much difference unless it squeezes the production capacity that the UK-commissioned broadcasters draw upon and thereby damages them. One of the sweetest phrases to any crew member must surely be ‘crew inflation’ (i.e. wages and general bargaining power going up)
- what will it mean in the medium-long term for the health of the UK production sector (a more worrying one – everyone should be concerned about the move away from deficit-financed productions as it results in more IP being owned from the starting gate by large consolidated media entities and not hustling local producers – so very bad both culturally and financially in the medium term (unless I’m wrong about this and would be happy to be corrected)
- what will it mean culturally? (Bectu members tell us that they like working on culturally attractive productions that have UK locations, UK writers featuring UK themes) and with slightly less hard-ass production mores of 11 hour days, etc. For the same reasons as (1) squeezed local capacity and (2) IP land grab, this is also probably a bad thing.
All of these are my personal observations and are very far from being deeply held convictions. But students of the movie business will know that, from time to time, regulators have stepped in to separate producers from distributors in the interests of both the industry and local, regional, and national cultural demands.
It will be interesting to see if media consolidation starts to worry people again. It should probably worry us – especially with Channel 4’s ownership in play and a BBC that has so many powerful enemies ranged against it.