Its early entries focused on creating prestige television and being very slow to cancel shows. That made its approach similar to how HBO has done things for decades, where it produced a relatively small slate, rarely canceled anything after the first season, and bet big on that relatively small slate.
That created appointment viewing. You had to watch “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “Sex in the City,” and, more recently, “Game of Thrones” when they aired in order to be able to talk about them at work the next day.
Netflix did that at first, but as it expanded its audience, it got away from that strategy, creating an enormous amount of shows that got very little attention.
Netflix judges success based on its own internal algorithm and how many minutes people spend watching a show. The problem — and it’s a big one — is vaguely watching something and emotionally connecting to it are very different.
As it went for volume over prestige, Netflix lost its relevance. That has been made worse by the company’s insistence on releasing whole seasons all at once. That robs the company of the public-relations life cycle that Walt Disney’s (DIS) – Get Walt Disney Company Report Disney+ takes full advantage of.
The content game has changed as the scene has become a lot more crowded. Now, it’s about intellectual property and taking big swings, not throwing a lot of shows at the wall to see what sticks.
Netflix has decided not to play that game and that’s causing its struggles. Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – Get WARNER BROS. DISCOVERY, INC. Report has followed a similar path as Netflix with CNN+, and that ultimately led to the news service lasting not even a month.
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Why Did CNN+ Fail?
CNN+ assumed that having a lot of content meant more than having signature content. It created a lot of shows with big names (or at least big names in the news world) but it wasn’t core programming. You might like Jake Tapper or Anderson Cooper, but CNN+ did not give you their top-tier shows. Instead, it gave you those names doing vanity shows of limited appeal.
You can’t actually watch CNN on CNN+. That makes its programming secondary. Yes, the channel had a lot of shows, but were any of them essential? Sure, you got stars, but mostly CNN+ delivered their vanity projects, not the shows people associate them with.
Basically, CNN+ followed the Netflix model: Hire a lot of stars and throw a ton of ideas at the wall. That can work to a point when you have more than 200 million subscribers. Netflix, for example, considers its Adam Sandler movies “hits” because they engage a segment of its audience. For CNN+, however, it’s a very tough way to grow from zero.
Why Is Disney+ the Model for Success?
Disney’s intellectual property has removed the threat of failure from its business model. It releases only shows that have large potential audiences. It also produces only a relatively small number of shows at a time. That makes it possible for a lesser-known character like Moon Knight to lead a series.
Every Disney show is an event that gets talked about and covered by the entertainment media extensively. That, plus the one-episode-a-week release schedule, enables word of mouth and water-cooler buzz to build.
When Disney brings back its biggest shows, it seems that everyone is watching them and that you’re missing out if you don’t. Netflix used to have that but no longer does, as even its so-called hits often fail to create much buzz (there are, of course, exceptions to that).
Netflix does not have Disney’s intellectual property — nobody does — but it could focus its attention on building franchises in the way that HBO has (and the way it did in its early days): Make every release an event with some bigger than others, but have every single show serve a potentially broad audience (the company has suggested it would be doing this). .
CNN+ was likely doomed no matter what it did, but by launching without a few clear big swings, hit attempts as its core focus, it had even less of a chance. The streaming world has become crowded, and nearly everyone has shows they want to watch but don’t have time for.
Disney has shown that it’s about going big, not volume. Netflix still has time to learn that lesson, CNN+, sadly does not.