Friday, August 4, 2017

WHAT IS A NETFLIX SHOW? RUMORS ABOUT NETFLIX BEING IN DEBT, AND HOW THEIR RANDOM SPENDING HAS COST THEM A BRAND IDENTITY.... AT LEAST SO FAR.....



Well, it's a bit of a slow week in terms of entertainment news. Well, entertainment news that's interesting enough for me to want to write about anyway. But, as I catch up as best I can all on the Emmy nominated that I've missed, particularly those damn drama series, (Seriously five new drama series nominated this year, first time that happened since the category's been around.) naturally I've been streaming a lot, Netflix, Amazon, and now that it's broken through, Hulu, between DVDs and streaming movies. And of course, I've discussed streaming, particularly in regards to Netflix, several times now, over the years. A lot of it, more than most people have, I've been critical of. That's when I saw this article.

http://uproxx.com/tv/netflix-bleeding-cash-20-billion-debt/

Okay, it's UpRoxx, not my favorite news site, but, I couldn't help but think about it. I mean, I think we've all been there, we look at our Netflix and suddenly, holy shit, there's like nine new series they've put on, only about two of which I've ever even heard of even being made, and what-the-hell, how'd I get three seasons behind on "House of Cards" all of a sudden? And yeah, you can feel overwhelmed. And it's not great that they're also trying to be a film studio and network too, and that's getting criticism as well, from people like Christopher Nolan, in this IndieWire article here:

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/07/christopher-nolan-interview-dunkirk-netflix-1201857101/

and, I actually agree with him. I, genuinely don't know what they're thinking with their films either. I vastly prefer Amazon's strategy to them. But, I want to focus on the television shows they're throwing money into, and there's a lot, I mean look at this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_original_programs_distributed_by_Netflix

I mean, not counting, acquisitions, look how much shit this is? How long have they been doing this, like five years, at the most? Six? You know, when FOX started, it had like, five shows.

Okay, so, different time, different situation, but what is a Netflix show? I mean, don't just list Netflix shows, I just did that, but-, if they want to be treated like at least on their original content side, like a television network, then we should analyze them as a network, right? Hell, I remember, years ago, I wrote a blog where I said that both Netflix and Hulu should become television channels.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-webseries-are-never-going-to-work.html

I think some people thought I was kidding, or meant this figuratively and not literally, but I meant it literally, and I still mean it. Hulu, I think is actually experimenting with a LiveStream in fact, but,-, I mean, it's not like they don't have the content, they do. Why not, start a channel, that accompanies the streaming, and sure, air your original programming, but also, maybe showcase some movies and other programs that you can stream, but maybe aren't getting as many streams as they might be? It's the perfect advertising vehicle for each other; I actually still don't get why they don't do that? I mean, why does Netflix have "Chelsea"? I mean, I know why, and I'm not criticizing Chelsea Handler here, but, seriously why? Streaming is not an ideal service for a Live Variety Talk show. Even Crackle's struggled with that idea, and besides, Netflix is all about binging anyway.

In fact, that's what I meant, when I said, "What is a Netflix show?" I don't mean what shows are on Netflix, I mean, what's they're brand?! I talk about this a lot with network channels, when I think of a network, let's say NBC, for example, I think of a particular image. Now that image has taken a beating from their Must See TV days, thanks Jeff Zucker, for that, (Eye roll), but you list NBC shows, they all fit classically fit together. They aimed for a predominantly higher-educated upper-middle-class, market, they do well on the coasts, especially New York, etc. Let's think their sitcoms for a second, "Seinfeld", "Friends", "Frasier", "Cheers', "Mad About You", "Will & Grace", etc. they have a lot in common. Audience, tone, etc. And that's not true of everything, and that's not true of everything on any network, sticking to this brand identity, there's always an outlier or two somewhere, but at least the main shows you think of, they try to match everything so that the shows fit. Same audience, just different takes on something similar, and when they do transition somewhat, like, when they transitioned to single camera series, they still, didn't do it all at once. They kept some things, but, they sneak in  a "30 Rock", they sneak in "The Office", and then spin into a "Parks and Rec", and even try with something like a "Whitney", that sucked, but was in-between that old tone and the new one. They're not all winners, but you can look at their failures, think-eh, "Boston Common", for instance (The five people who remember it, think about it.) it screams NBC show; it fits right in. Okay, yeah, that's kinda like "Mad About You", and "Wings", and "Caroline in the City", alright shove it in on that night." It fits, and that's what you're aiming for.

And, it also becomes a little noticeable when something on the network doesn't fit. For instance, eh, what's a good example here, oh-um, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show".



Now, I'm not trying to pick on Jeff Foxworthy, who actually can be and has been pretty funny, and frankly this wasn't an awful show or anything; hell, it survived pretty well in reruns despite two seasons and two networks. But, yeah, the "...You Might Be a Redneck" guy had a TV show for a couple years there in the mid-nineties, and sure why not. He was one of the biggest and funniest comics around at that time, and btw, I think he still holds some records for his best-selling comedy albums.... Anyway, the first season of the show, it was on ABC, which made perfect sense, especially back then. It'd make sense today even. He's a family friendly comic, but he's also got a southern and midwestern, working class base audience, and that was ABC's base too. It was the network of "Roseanne" and "Home Improvement" and "Grace Under Fire" and "The Drew Carey Show," at that time, and it fits pretty perfectly into that lineup of shows. It might've been a little off-putting next to "Full House" or "Family Matters" on their TGIF, but not much, but they weren't the main shows that represented the network, all networks have those anomalies, like I said.

But move him to NBC, which they did for it's second season, and it wasn't awful or anything, but um, no, it sticks out like a sore thumb. NBC was white collar, it wasn't blue collar. It also wasn't "White Collar" either that was USA, but you know what I mean. (I'm sorry, I know that joke didn't work, but I couldn't help myself) So, no, it didn't work on NBC, and it got canceled shortly after. Now, that's my go-to example, NBC, but I can do that with any network really, 'cause that's what networks do, they brand themselves, and then they put on shows that match that brand. FOX used to be the rebel upstart network that scewered younger and more edgy, and to some extent they still would like to do that. CBS, classic three-camera sitcoms, or the like, plus mostly procedural drama series, Lifetime, is still television for women, or women who like shitty reality that Bravo won't touch. And hell, after Bravo's rebranding, they still tried to edge their reality towards the higher-educated for awhile, until "Project Runway" left. Game Show Network, airs game shows. How about HBO? or Showtime. Do they have a brand? I'd say so. It took awhile, but HBO found a way to brand itself. Edgy, adult comedies, both in maturity and subject matter, top creators, dramas that weren't conventional even for narrative dramas, there's very few original shows on that network that I would argue didn't fit HBO in some way, even the failed or bad ones. And Showtime, well, they're the edgy version of HBO. More main character-based dramas and sitcoms, a little more wild and random then HBO, but still adult. They've successfully branded themselves, sure.

Now, look at Amazon, sure, they've got just as wide a variety of stuff as Netflix or Hulu, and it's nice to see something like "Out of Practice", randomly, which was a very underrated sitcom that lasted one  year that you should totally stream immediately, but  the stuff they put their brand and name on, they're original shows and even their movies, they all fit nicely together. Seriously, edgy, but dark slice-of-life comedies, some experiment period pieced based dramas, some high-minded but smart sitcoms, with original voices behind them, a few things from the UK mixed in, for prestige, they do own the rights to most PBS programming so that makes sense that something like "Catastrophe" would come from them. I'm watching "I Love Dick" right now, that feels natural next to "Transparent", next to "Mozart of the Jungle", next to "One Mississippi", next to, "Alpha House... and drama side too, "Good Girls Revolt", okay, that one sucks, but it fits next to "The Man in the High Castle' and "Z" and "The Last Tycoon", not their I get their F. Scott Fitzgerald thing, but whatever, it all fits together. They know what they are and what they want to be. Hulu also is doing this to an extent, they came late and are still building their brand, but it's getting there.

But, Netflix? I-eh, I don't know. We got,-, I don't know. Eh, I mean, there's a few continuing themes, but, "Master of None" is sorta their "Louie", which is, fits into "Love", or "Easy" maybe, "Dear White People" fits into "She's Gotta Have It", which fits into "Fuller House" and "Arrested Development" not at all. Seriously, not at all. There's no pattern here. Why's "One Day at a Time" on Netflix. I mean, I love the reboot, but if that was on CBS or ABC, it'd make way more sense. Hell, why are they even trying three-camera sitcoms. I mean, they put all the shows on at once. The great thing about three-cameras, with a few exceptions, is the "Shot Live in front of a studio audience" part, and usually you can kinda do that on a weekly basis because they don't shoot episode so far in advance that people wouldn't have to do to much to catch up, or even need to, and you'd get that natural laughter of the scene. Trust me, they ain't all laugh track audiences, okay. Hell, I'd argue they're perfect for Hulu, they're focus is on weekly releases of Episodes, which makes sense with most of their programming.

I mean, I think they want to be HBO, but you know, HBO doesn't have that many comedy specials a year. Documentaries, they're proud of, okay. Kids stuff, eh, I guess HBO has some, but that's never been a main focus, that's more Nickelodeon or Disney Channel most of it. They seem to be trying to be everything, and ultimately they end up being nothing. And they're putting a lot of money into it.

I don't think they're going broke anytime soon, but it's a bit distressing. Again, I'm not criticizing the content necessarily, but-, you see, Amazon and Netflix are perfect comparisons here, 'cause essentially they came from the same field, Netflix, well, they let you borrow, but essentially, they sold DVDs, and Amazon, sold everything. And people borrowed the DVDs and as the internet shopping boom took off, people love buying things off Amazon. All kinds of people, it's not necessarily just the rich that buy off Amazon either, if you're looking you can't find anywhere else, and for cheap, or slightly used, Amazon's great. I know several people who just use it to by tools and parts to fix their own things. DVDs are a little more specific, but everybody likes movies and TV show, but once both decided to offer customers a streaming service, therefore officially entering the entertainment distribution field, they took very different paths. Amazon, had a couple original things, some short programs, I enjoyed their cult comedy series "Alpha House", from the "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau, some off-the-map little things until "Transparent" broke them through to pop culture at large. But still, they selected their programs much more carefully, television and movies, and really established a brand that Amazon represents, and they did in about the same amount of time that Netflix did. Sure, Netflix has some marquee shows, "House of Cards", "Orange is the New Black", for instance, but I have a difficult time telling you what a Netflix show is like, without just listing them. Amazon, on the other hand, they've got a bit of an identity. I can establish them, I can think of ideas of shows that fit their signatures styles and motifs, and would be the first place I'd pitch some projects.

Netflix, I'd pitch to as well, but it seems like all they want to do is create and produce streaming programming. Hell, that's part of why I think Nolan's on to something with Amazon going into theater distribution of their films before putting them on streaming and DVD; I don't even bother with a Netflix original films unless I have a damn good reason to. Some of them, I can't even tell whether I'm supposed to consider them a TV movie or a feature film, and I'm not even talking the blurred lines of their documentaries, and it's not like I could if I wanted to, I can't keep up with their series or stand-up specials or miniseries, or-, children series....- or animated series....- Hell, Amazon goes out of their way to show their audience Pilots of series they'd want made; they're not committing ten episodes of every damn thing. They feel like, a network, oddly.

Netflix feels more like, a Wal-Mart. I would've thought it'd be the other way around if I were to bet, but step right up, we have everything and at a cheaper price than everyone and more selection than everyone! You want X, Y, Z, you got it! Etc. etc.

That's not really a brand though. That's not really an identity. And the thing is, if that UpRoxx article is prophetic, and, let's say in five years maybe, Netflix suddenly, doesn't exist...., hopefully the DVDs part at least does, but let's, let's hypothesize that they keep spending and spending on, whatever, without a real clear guide to what they want to focus in on or a brand to produce..., how will we remember them? Well, on top of that, what happens to the shows they produce beforehand, that's gonna a fascinating entertainment business ownership law nightmare-, but if they do spend themselves into too much debt and don't have a real clear path or an idea of a path and a brand to put out there....- Maybe my predictions will really be right, and Netflix will just be that company where we got all those shows and DVDs from, and now they're not here anymore, like that thing they replace when they arrived. You know, the Video Rental store. Except, they streamed a few shows that time, you remember? What were some of them called...? Oh yeah, this and this and that and that was on there, a few other weird things.

What? You think it'd be the first network with original programming to suddenly exist one day, and pow, no longer there anymore afterwords?


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