So far, Netflix has been a success story. The streaming service kept getting bigger. More and more customers were registered worldwide. But this week there was a real cannonball when Netflix had to announce that for the first time in the company’s history it had to record a decline in subscriptions in the first quarter of 2022 : Instead of having 2.5 million additional users as targeted, it worked down by 200,000. In addition, one had to promise that an even greater decline was expected in the second quarter from April to June – by around two million subscriptions.
While there are a variety of explanations for the decline, Netflix stock plummeted massively — by around 30%. And Netflix seems to have almost panicked at this bad news. At least that’s what a report by the usually well-informed industry magazine The Wrap suggests.
Layoffs in animation…
As has now been confirmed by Netflix, the company has already fired several people this week — especially in the animation department. Phil Rynda, Director Of Creative Leadership And Development For Original Animation, who was just launching the interactive series Battle Kitty, had to go with part of his team.
Netflix has actually continued to expand the animation area in particular. They now offer a lot of content for small children, and in the medium term they also want to compete with Disney. For years, Netflix also had a reputation for giving creatives a lot of freedom here, and with this promise they were able to attract such high-profile names from the industry as «Powerpuff Girls» creator Craig McCracken or «Manolo and the Book of Life» director Jorge R. Attracting Gutierrez , he also released extraordinary films like Klaus that no one else wanted to fund. But that all seems to have been changing behind the scenes for quite some time.
Does data obedience lead to dismissals?
The Wrap has spoken to several people in the animation field who lament that creative freedom has been sacrificed to data addiction. In discussions and meetings, one is repeatedly confronted with (allegedly non-transparent) data intended to show what the audience really wants to see. If you question this data, you will very quickly be dismissed. Netflix is also accused of using this data manipulatively and only using it to substantiate its own arguments or to put down the ideas of the creative forces.
And so, Netflix pulled several animation projects from development because they allegedly don’t match what people out there want to see. History is now the adaptation of Jeff Smith’s award-winning comic «Bone», which has been in development for years. Netflix has already confirmed this. A new project by well-known animator Lauren Faust (“My Little Pony”, “Kid Cosmic”) was also discontinued a few weeks ago, when the internal team already knew about the bad numbers that were about to be announced.
The best animated series on Netflix, ranked by their ratings
The planned Roald Dahl adaptation «The Twits» is also named as a victim of the new direction at The Wrap , although Netflix denied it in a statement to the industry magazine. The adaptation is still on the agenda, there is only the consideration of making a film instead of the actually planned series.
The cut affects probably not only upcoming projects. Despite being nominated for the renowned Peabody Award, the children’s series “ My City of Ghosts ” will not be continued. Creator Elizabeth Ito is said to have turned away from Netflix in disappointment and will be developing new content for AppleTV+ in the future.
Is more «Boss Baby» the result?
What all these projects have in common is that Netflix considers them to be too risky. They are said to go too much into certain niches. Netflix wants more projects for the masses and internally the series “ Boss Baby: Back in Business ” is allegedly cited as a shining example. According to The Wrap , every person we spoke to at Netflix confirmed that the «Boss Baby» series was repeatedly held up to them as an ideal during discussions. This is exactly what a series should look like, these numbers should bring it in.
It is ironic that «Boss Baby: Back in Business» is not a series developed by Netflix itself, but was only bought by the production company DreamWorks.
Children’s programs are just the tip of the iceberg
As most of you will have noticed, all the examples mentioned are now animated projects for children. The reason: The Wrap reporter Drew Taylor explicitly researched this area, spoke to the employees* and creative people working for Netflix in this area at Netflix. But anyone who now thinks, «I don’t watch children’s series and films, I don’t have to worry about that,» is pretty wrong.
Because it is very likely that the described approaches — and let’s call it that — problems will also be found in the other departments and the now particularly drastic cuts in the animation area are only the tip of the iceberg. It is likely that this «data addiction» exists in all departments, that Netflix makes life difficult for creative people everywhere and reproaches them with possibly non-transparent numbers that their projects do not attract a correspondingly large number of people.
And it’s already been clearly noticeable in recent years. Netflix is focusing even more on projects suitable for the masses – on films with superstars like “ Red Notice ”, on cheap yet incredibly popular teen romances like “ The InBetween ”. This could increase even more if Netflix really mainly and possibly (as the report alleges) looks almost exclusively at the data – and of course it poses a great risk. If, in the run-up to planning, you only look at what has been going well so far according to the data, subordinate everything to the previous data, you only do more and more of the same , becomes less diverse… And that’s one — if I make that so clear here may say — quite frightening direction…
Klaus Trailer DF