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It is no secret that Netflix has a vice grip on the entertainment world. The streaming service has thrown quite a bit of money into the development of scripted content, but it has also become a major contender in the realm of comedy as well. Over the last few months, the company has funneled massive amounts of cash into a wide variety of comedy specials, and it's apparently in an attempt to corner the stand-up market and push out the competition for less money than other forms of entertainment would typically cost. Comedy producer Brian Volk-Weiss explained:
Unlike drama, which costs them billions, what they're able to do with stand-up for $100 million is dominate. They basically said, let's take everything off the table so that if the public wants to tune in to high-end comedy, it goes to Netflix.
Brian Volk-Weiss' recent comments to Variety plainly lay out the simple economics of the stand-up comedy genre. Netflix has made a series of investments in a significant number of high-profile stand-up comedians (such as Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, and Dave Chappelle) that seem expensive, but are ultimately cheap when compared to other forms of entertainment that the streaming service produces. For the cost of a single season of a series (the exorbitantly priced drama The Get Down comes to mind), Netflix can completely corner the comedy market. Even at $10-20 million for an A-list comedian like Amy Schumer, stand-up specials still yield more bang for Netflix's buck.
Netflix has clearly set some lofty goals for itself, but the method seems to be working. Brian Volk-Weiss' overall assessment of the situation appears to indicate that Netflix will indeed dominate the comedy market unless a major competitor like HBO or Comedy Central can step up to re-carve out their niches. He said:
By the end of this year, unless somebody mounts a tremendous counterattack, which is getting increasingly harder, Netflix will have utter domination of one of five or six genres that exist.
This development has recently led to a major counter move by the competition. Widely seen as a response to Netflix's avalanche of stand-up investments, Comedy Central recently announced the Colossal Clusterfest comedy festival. Taking place from June 2 to June 4 in San Francisco, this live event will give the stand-up comedy genre the Coachella treatment, and feature a wide array of headliners such as Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, and Hannibal Burress. It's a bold move that plays up the live-and-in-person element, and it's a wildly different approach to stand-up comedy when compared to Netflix, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out in the coming months.
I don't know about you, but to me, it sounds like these entertainment giants are subtweeting the hell out of each other. There seems to be a war brewing between all of these companies over stand-up comedy dominance, which means it's a great moment for fans of comedy. Let them duke it out and let the laughs roll in.