Unless you've been hiding in a cave for the past year or so, you know that the field of streaming television is about to become even more crowded. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu have been competing for years, but the next few months will see more services like Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock, HBO Max (and more) try to gain your subscription dollars. Netflix is already losing some tried and true licensed winners to those other services, so now they're banking on British TV big time to try and keep subscribers around. The service is set to spend $500 million this year on content from across the pond.
Wow. It would seem that if you enjoy hearing people say "chips" when they're talking about French fries and "jumper" when they mean sweater, you're going to have a lot to feast your Anglo-loving ears on before long.
Reed Hastings, Netflix co-founder, Chairman and CEO, spoke at the Royal Television Society conference recently (via The Guardian) and confirmed that number as well as the fact that the streamer's production budget for the UK is second only to the United States. Clearly, Netflix believes that this will be the main way forward when it comes to keeping current subscribers happy, and trying to continually up those subscriber numbers in the future. Overall, Netflix increased its European productions this year by 50% from 2018, with 221 total projects, 153 of which are originals, for a budget of well over $1 billion.
Netflix will be making and licensing more than 50 television shows and movies made in the UK this year, and even signed a production deal with west London's Shepperton Studios (where films such as Alien and Mary Poppins Returns have filmed) so that its' productions will have exclusive access to the facility for at least 10 years beginning in October. The hope, of course, is that once Netflix finds something to move ahead on, production can begin as soon as possible because there's already a home base lined up.
Reed Hastings also said that Netflix is aiming to secure top notch creative talent through "golden handcuff" deals, meaning that they wouldn't be able to create shows for other networks or streamers while under contract with his company. It's thought that Netflix is working on such deals with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who won big at the Emmys last night for her Amazon series, Fleabag), Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker and The Crown's Peter Morgan. Hastings, though, wouldn't confirm who exactly Netflix was trying to make deals with right now.
The streamer already has similar deals in place with US powerhouse creators like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, so it's no surprise it's looking to do the same overseas. If you can lock down someone who's already created buzzed about, award-winning content for a few years (at least until you cancel their show), wouldn't you?
Netflix has been the subject of much subscriber ire lately. During the early days of originals on the streamer, it was rare that a series got cancelled, but in the past year the hammer has been brought down on many shows that still have dedicated fan bases, as well as newer shows which would have seemed to still be in their prime. The service has also been raising prices, which is a no-brainer when you consider how much they're spending on content to try and keep above the streaming fray, but will never make subscribers happy.
Will having a lot more buzzy content from Great Britain help soothe Netflix subscribers and maybe even encourage newbies to sign up in spite of all the competition? Only time will tell. All they can hope for is that all the new shows they put money behind fare more like Bodyguard rather than The I-Land.