Sorry, Stuart! Netflix is King of Quality Content

Full disclosure: I love it when Stuart Sweet is wrong. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen very often because he’s extremely knowledgeable about all things broadcasting, cord-cutting, and satellite TV. On those rare occasions when he does make a mistake, I pounce on it like a tiger attacking its prey. Well, this tiger is about to jump once more. I have undeniable proof that our learned Mr. Sweet made a blunder when he unfairly judged streaming service provider Netflix.

I was sifting through past Solid Signal blog posts when I came upon a gem he wrote back on July 5, 2016. He must have really been in a mood that day because he really tore into Netflix. His post lamented what he believed to be the shabby state of Netflix’s operation on Apple TV. I won’t go over Stuart’s word in excruciating detail because it’s all there for you to read, should you choose to. Suffice to say, my cranky coworker complains about the the big red streaming service for committing these alleged crimes:

  1. The Netflix Apple TV app. Apparently, he didn’t like the large image previews at the top and a compressed list of content at the bottom.
  2. Again with the app. Stuart was rankled that Netflix left out the ability to search by category and/or genre.
  3. And one more time with the app. He was rather displeased that the content Netflix suggested wasn’t to his liking. (Could it be that the streaming service was trying to break him out of his rigid, sci-fi mode? Asking for a friend.)
  4. Lack of first-run movie availability. Now, here’s where I believe Mr. Sweet was on to something. Netflix does lack the latest movies, often forcing subscribers to turn to Pay-Per-View to for the home theater experience.

He capped his post off by offering Netflix various suggestions on how to improve what he considered to be a failing streaming service. He didn’t say “failing” exactly; I believe his exact phrase was, “on the verge of irrelevance.” This brings me to the point of my post – Stuart Sweet was completely wrong about Netflix. (Wow! That felt good to type.) Taking a look at Netflix today, it’s far from being irrelevant. In fact, the streaming service has more than addressed many of Stuart’s small concerns, including:

  • Netflix now allows you to search by category in AppleTV.
  • It also uses the preview space above the movies list for video previews. (Stuart still hates this, but I’ve personally heard him grudgingly agree that it’s a good use of space.)
  • Netflix has – for the moment – somewhat improved in offering first run movies faster. For example, Marvel and Disney movies have been coming to the service as quickly as six months after release. (This might change with Disney adding its own streaming service.)
  • Netflix has practically revived the romantic comedy genre. (Stuart doesn’t care, of course.)
  • Its original movies are decent and its original series are even better. (I have it on good authority that Mr. Sweet enjoys Orange is the New Black, Grace and Frankie, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and G.L.O.W.)

Netflix’s original content is the key to its success. It’s first big move toward streaming service dominance came in 2011. That when Ted Sarandos purchased House of Cards for $100 million. Some thought Ted was out of his mind to spend so much on a series, but it turned out that he was a visionary. This move put Netflix on its current course of being the king of original content that it is today. Now, it has produced and purchased more than 700 new or exclusively licensed TV shows, many of them being smash hits with viewers. (You can read more about that in this article from The Economist.)

Unlike Stuart, more than 70 percent of my TV watching is done on Netflix. (I’m not the only one, according to this article from Variety.) As a kid, I loved going to the movies to see all the classic films from my generation. As an adult, I haven’t been to a movie theater since I saw Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, back in 2008. (What a touching yet ultimately tragic movie, by the way.) I know why I haven’t been back to the theaters – because films today have been boring, formulaic spectacles that focus more on merchandising and other cash grabs. (Happy meal, anyone?)

I grew up in an era of great directors who made classic, enduring films. David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Francis Ford Coppola are among the greatest filmmakers of my generation. Want to guess where the new crop of film auteurs can be found? They’re making Netflix original series. Great art is made when directors focus on showing and telling a great story. The best stories being told aren’t in the movie theaters these days. They’re on Netflix… and a few other streaming services, to be fair.

Netflix’s success is built on originality, artistic vision, and taking chances. That last part is the most important. Hollywood isn’t taking any chances these days, and this lack of originality and vision is what’s killing theater attendance. Truth be told, I have no burning desire to see yet another Jurassic Park or Incredibles, or Oceans movie, yet that’s what the studios have served up. And don’t even get me started on the crop of horrible remakes of my beloved 1980s classics! (Seriously. If I go there, I’ll complain worse than Stuart would if he found out that CBS was cancelling the latest Star Trek series.)

Netflix is king among streaming service providers simply because it dares to be different. It’s focus on original content was an unorthodox one that many people didn’t understand at the time. (I think it had Stuart flummoxed, to be honest.) Now, in retrospect, we can all agree that this decision has paid off for Netflix in a huge way. Look, if I just wanted TV shows and second-run movies, I’d get a less expensive streaming service and be done with it. As a film buff raised on classic movies, however, I demand quality content. No streaming service does that better than my beloved Netflix.