Speaking to investment analysts during Netflix’s third-quarter earnings call, co-CEO Reed Hastings confirmed what we all know: yes, the streaming service’s program library is smaller than it used to be.
But it matters not, he said.
A decade ago, when Netflix was pioneering the business of premium video subscription streaming, “we were trying to figure out what we can stream, and we were licensing in bulk and volume just a lot of content just to see what worked well versus today where we're much more deliberate about the programming,” Hastings said during the Oct. 20 call. “And we really don't focus that much on the title count.”
In an earlier iteration of the streaming industry, number of titles counted more as important marketing equity.
“The marketing war was how many titles you had,” Hastings explained. “But it isn’t that meaningful if people don’t watch them.”
Of course, he’s comparing Netflix’s old business model, which involved licensing content rights in bulk from major studios, to the one Netflix has today, which involves the investment of billions of dollars to produce its own shows because the studios no longer want to share their content with Netflix.
Understandably, given that it’s paying a lot more for content right now, “volume, volume, volume” might not be a useful mantra.
Hastings, however, continued to spin the “quality over quantity” narrative as being more intentional.
“What we really done is concentrated on the titles that have a lot of impact and can aggregate big audiences and move the business forward and add a lot of value for our members,” he said. “So we really don't focus on the title count, but you are correct, it's significantly lower than it was when we first started streaming, I'd say, more 10 years ago where we used to license an entire library of 800 films from somebody and nobody watched any of them. So it's really not a chase for how many titles, but these are the titles you can't live without.”
In February, streaming aggregation platform Reelgood published a chart showcasing the quantitative evolution of the Netflix library. Here it is again:
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