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Netflix is Live
Last Night, Television Changed Again…
Preface: I wrote this pretty quick. Apologies for any grammatical errors.
Some things seem like a big deal when they’re announced, but when they happen, you realize…this actually is game changing.
Years from now, Chris Rock’s performance on March 4th, 2023 will be as noteworthy in Netflix’s history as House of Cards because last night for the first time…Netflix was live.
Ever since Netflix announced they’d kick off their live television initiatives with Chris Rock’s $20m standup show, it felt like the collective thinking was, “Interesting. It’s just like TV,” which makes sense, right? It’s not that unique or innovative but when was the last time you watched standup comedy live on TV?Paired with Netflix’s surprising announcement last year that they were creating an ad tier after years of eschewing the idea completely and then somehow launching it in ten or so months, this is a really big moment in the “streaming wars.”
Last night’s show was the ideal event for Netflix to showcase their live ambitions and it’s no coincidence that Chris Rock was selected. It’s also no coincidence that they decided to do it just one week before the Academy Awards.
While we talk about House of Cards as Netflix’s first big bet on original programming, we tend to forget the importance of standup comedy to Netflix’s early original programming ambitions. They went ALL IN on standup, ultimately taking the standup championship belt away from the decades reigning champion, HBO. From there, they went on an all time spending spree recreating the cable bundle in their service’s vision. They took on films to mixed creative success and whether you like their films or not, they got incredible global attention and engagement. They’ve taken low cost reality programming prevalent on cable channels like Bravo and made them their own. This has happened with so many different types of programming and all with their unique global scale.
That’s why live is such a big deal and while it feels so inevitable, it comes at possibly the worst time ever for their competitors. While their competition is tethered to the sinking ship of cableand stock market troubles, Netflix has a new ad tier to go with their unprecedented global audience. Remember, all of their programming is delivered over the Internet. It’s so early, but wait until they experiment with advertising in ways that cable networks or broadcasters couldn’t. I don’t expect their streaming competitors to have anywhere near the level of experimental flexibility and opportunities that Netflix will given their global audience, product scale and lack of legacy thinking. Remember, they launched a new global ad tier in less than a year. That’s incredible!
It is SUCH an advantage to not have decades of legacy baggage as they seek to re-invent live programming as they see fit. Live standup comedy shows like Chris Rock’s are just the beginning. Sports? Definitely (depending on the price and audience). Award shows? Absolutely (remember, they bought the rights to the SAG Awards). Their own global version of American Idol x Eurovision with live voting? Sure. What else? Well, WWE is for sale and they have a pretty strong global audience. Who knows! Ultimately, if there’s global attention with premium advertiser interest, they’ll entertain it.
Live programming on Netflix is here and while they’ll start slowly, they’ll soon enough become a must watch zeitgeist/moment creating machine where you’ll have to tune in live or you’ll miss the collective moment. Why? Because as much as we love binging, we’re humans and we love watching events together at the same time. It’s what makes Sunday nights on HBO so iconic. Want to watch the NFL on demand at your own convenience? Of course not! While I love a good binge, isn’t it kind of nice to not have everything from a show like Rock’s aggregated on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram before you watch it? It’s fun to be surprised and have no idea what might happen next. This isn’t new at all but it feels like we lost something over the last decade of just binging and we’re getting something back.
Last night, the game changed again and unsurprisingly, Netflix is ahead. This is just the beginning. Stay tuned.
I’m assuming you don’t actually watch SNL live, you watch SNL the next day on social platforms.
Props to Netflix’s advertising teams!
In today’s 24/7 immediate response world, Chris Rock played the ultimate slow game and cashed in last night.
Lilyhammer came out first but Netflix’s first real ambitions were shown when they outbid competitors for House of Cards with a $100m guarantee.
Spending likely hundreds of millions dollars on countless evergreen comedy specials. A rising stock price is a hell of a thing!
+ Escalating sports rights
“Thanks Microsoft for the ad network help!” - Netflix execs