Netflix stock this month dropped to about a third of its value last October—then it was over $600; now its just above $200.In the quarter just passed Netflix dropped one million subscribers, but because the market was predicting a 2 Million subscriber loss, its stock actually enjoyed an uptick. This week Netflix launched its most expensive original production ever—the $200-Million action movie Gray Man starring Ryan Gosling. The film was produced and directed by the Russo brothers who have had great success in the superhero genre, but the movie received middling ratings from critics, somewhat offset by a high audience score. As the Roger Ebert critics put it, “it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Netflix has too little creative oversight over projects like these, just letting creators run off with their money and not really caring about what they deliver.” That may be a bit too kind—there is no evidence there is anybody at Netflix capable of such oversight.
The movie wasn’t bad—Gosling was given some decent lines to work with, and the settings—Vienna, Prague, Monaco et cetera were stunning. The computer-generated crashes and explosions…crashed and exploded, but in the end, it was the kind of movie where, say you had to go to the bathroom or the fridge, there would be no need to pause the film.
Netflix’s main problem is too many crappy shows. Since the pandemic created a one-year hole in film production, part of Netflix’s problem with content may be just that. Its suggested there is more material flowing into the pipeline. But an unscientific review of Netflix’s last four days of new shows, demonstrates how threadbare their schedule has become.
First of all there is the problem of non-English language material. Of 22 new offerings in the last four days, only seven were filmed in English. There once was a time when foreign cinema was a snob thing—an intellectual pursuit, but these latest offerings –let’s just say for the most part they are decidedly not Renoir, Kurosawa, Bergman, Godard or Fellini. There are exceptions like Drive my Car, Parasite and Roma, but most of the stuff Netflix is licensing from foreign producers falls short from a quality perspective.
Writing in the New York Times reporter Shira Ovide says the days of drunken-sailor spending by streaming services may be over. “Lower-cost streaming subscriptions with commercials have been popular for Hulu and HBO Max, and Netflix will try them, too. They’re an option for us to pay less, but they’re also an acknowledgment that the relatively low-cost, all-you-can-watch buffet of entertainment with no ads is most likely behind us.”