In the late 1990s, video rentals were still in demand. People loved renting out DVDs for cosy movie nights with their families, friends or partners, relying on the rental store employees for suggestions. (Fun fact, Quentin Tarantino, too, worked at a video rental store in California!) It was in 1997 that American entrepreneurs Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings decided to start a video-rental company in California, calling it Netflix.
They operated by sending out DVDs by post, providing a perfect stop-gap between the digital and analogue worlds. However, with YouTube’s blistering success after its inception in 2005, Netflix ditched its original plan of releasing a streaming device and became an internet-based streaming service, instead. In 2007, the company began featuring streaming content, and their journey began in earnest.
Netflix has indeed come a long way. From acquiring shows such as Breaking Bad, while almost on the verge of cancellation, to finally filling its library with more Original content to becoming a full-blown studio that would give them the creative control to produce their own brand of shows, films, documentaries and more — within less than two decades, the streamer has managed to amass a whopping number of 221.8 million subscribers.
In 2020, right after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that most endured, Netflix saw a huge increase in the number of subscribers, gradually reaching its peak in 2021. Netflix reigned supreme as the only streaming platform worth investing in for a long time. However, it appears as though many are now switching allegiances.
With oversaturation, comes stagnancy as well as unbridled competition from fellow streaming services, namely Disney+, Hulu, Amazon prime and more. Alarmingly, in 2022, as soon as Netflix increased prices in the United States and Canada, they began losing a chunk of subscribers to Disney+. Strategically, the latter has also managed to gain streaming rights to some very popular fan-favourites, namely How I Met Your Mother, New Girl and Modern Family, among others, meaning up to 750,000 subscribers in the UK alone are now looking to switch. With a rapid decline in subscriber growth, we decided to weigh the pros and cons of your Netflix subscription.
Well-known filmmakers like Martin Scorsese have often highlighted the ill effects of streaming services. The acclaimed director has spoken up about how the quality of the content is often compromised in the streamer’s increased efforts in producing a greater quantity of content to satisfy audiences. This, according to Scorsese, will have an even poorer effect on the future of cinema. While his sentiments certainly strike some chords, especially with productions like The Open House, He’s All That and some other flimsy titles somehow making it to print; it is pertinent to note that Netflix has, over the years, created brilliant Original films and series. It’s not a leap to suggest that some of those have even altered the entire landscape of filmmaking.
From the 2016 show Stranger Things, resuscitating the sci-fi genre and seeing a brilliant synthesis between the nostalgic ’80s and other supernatural elements, to the Award-winning Alfonso Cuaron film Roma that saw the streamer’s foray into the scene of prestigious mainstream cinema, Netflix has had a lot to offer in the recent past.
Scorsese himself has created a masterpiece in collaboration with the streaming service in 2019, titled The Irishman, that starred Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro and was the auteur’s emotional and heartfelt adieu to his beloved gangster genre. Besides other films like Okja, Marriage Story, Mudbound and more, in 2021 alone, the streamer has produced a variety of brilliant films, namely The Power of the Dog, The Lost Daughter, Don’t Look Up etc. Many of those titles will likely feature in upcoming award ceremonies.
Netflix is also one of the first-ever leading platforms to have taken international content to unimaginable heights. After resuscitating and remodelling Alex Pina’s Spanish thriller series Money Heist to become a massive success, in 2021, the streamer produced Squid Game, a South Korean Original survival thriller series, helmed by Hwang Dong-hyuk that smashed all records and went on to become the most successful show ever created by Netflix.
With a growing interest in South Korean content and other international content, Netflix began investing heavily in foreign titles to tap into a greater demographic, truly becoming a cosmopolitan space. Recently, with its newest Korean release, the zombie high school survival show, All of Us Are Dead’s immeasurable success, the streamer has yet again been successful in its endeavour of promoting international content. They have successfully defeated the pre-existing prejudices regarding the language barrier and lived up to the words of the acclaimed South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, who said, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles.”
Netflix has also proven to be an extremely diverse and inclusive platform. Despite the severe debate in 2021 regarding Dave Chappelle’s anti-trans comments that led to an employee walkout, the streamer has always aimed at including trans actors in popular mainstream shows like Sex Education and Elite, while promoting LGBTQIA+ content. With series like Top Boy, Never Have I Ever and others, Netflix has also shown its innate interest in including diversified content. Recently, they launched a separate social media platform called Netflix Golden, helmed by an Indian creator, to provide a larger platform for pan-Asian stories to be told.
In reality, no matter what way you look at it, despite the presence of various other streaming services, Netflix has ticked all the right boxes.
From recycling its content every month wherein they add new titles while removing and reshuffling others to renewing fan favourites like The Crown, the streamer has been extremely successful in its efforts. They have managed to convey stories that were unheard of, to people who had previously no interest in listening. It has even provided a platform for many artists who are otherwise shunned by the industry. As well as classic shows, original content and provocative projects, Netflix also has its own algorithm and recommendation engine that suggests something that you will like based on your viewing history. It’s almost like having a friend who can read your mind, right?
If the reasons stated above are not enough for you to stop cancelling your Netflix subscription, remember how, just a few years back, “Netflix and Chill” helped you score a date. “Amazon and chill”? “Disney+ and chill”? It just doesn’t have the same ring to it.