Ever wonder how shows such as Daredevil and House of Cards can become such enormous hits, despite the fact that we almost never see commercials for them? Netflix knows this, and it’s all part of the company's business model. In a recent interview with Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos explained why the online streaming giant does not bother spending exorbitant amounts of money to market its content. Apparently, the service does a lot of the heavy lifting by itself.
A lot of the heavy lifting of getting audiences to the show is done with the user interface. We can launch a lot of these shows without spending any marketing. We can use the merchandising to draw the audience in. Marketing spends we do mostly to attract subscribers to join Netflix. The actual viewing of shows, the user interface is driving almost all of that. So marketing is good to plant a seed in the culture, awards season spending, so we see it a lot different in New York and LA.
Ted Sarandos' quotes to TV Insider reveal that the homepage on Netflix offers a multitude of easily digestible categories, with all of Netflix’s content displayed plainly enough for subscribers to see. All Netflix really needs to do is sell potential customers on their service, and the homepage will sell the content for almost no marketing cost. The company plans to release 475 hours worth of original programming within the next year alone, so financially it seems unfeasible to give each program a full, effective marketing campaign – get people to subscribe, and the shows themselves will do the rest.
Obviously some marketing is inherently required. Netflix’s biggest shows get exposure in major cultural centers such as New York and LA; however, as Sarandos points out, these are more to “plant a seed” for the service, rather than advertise those specific programs. Netflix Originals have developed a strong word-of-mouth reputation for their high quality, so all the company needs to do is remind people where to obtain the programming and theoretically the company is good to go.
By not competing for time slots, and releasing a show's content all at once, Netflix can effectively show a great deal of extra patience for shows than traditional networks. Subscribing in the first place is more important than overall ratings; once you become a member, you can get to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt whenever you feel like it.
What Netflix has done is most certainly impressive. By developing an organic interface to promote their programming, the streaming service has allowed itself to focus on content above all else.