In today’s Wall Street Journal, there was an article that basically described how Netflix was shaking up Hollywood by providing an alternative distribution partner for studios to profit from and consider when making original programming.
This of course is not a very revolutionary idea to anybody that reads this blog. You are quite aware of the fact that digital streaming rights are being sold, Netflix is financing its own original programming, and the website is making content distribution deals with studios well before new series ever go into production.
Unquestionably, Netflix is changing the way the game is played in Hollywood.
But they aren’t changing the game for Hollywood alone.
Netflix is also changing the game for me and all the other little guy, wannabe producers out there in the world. It hasn’t happened in abundance or with any great significance (if at all) yet, but the day is coming when the up-and-coming/small producer taking his idea straight to Netflix for a meeting will be a thing that is relatively common.
And big things will come of those meetings. After all, Netflix has no allegiances to Hollywood. As the WSJ article notes, a lot of negotiators in Hollywood do not appreciate how Netflix is playing the game. Hollywood does not like not being able to sell their entire catalogs of content to Netflix, who instead chooses to be picky–you know, only paying for the shows people actually want to watch. Furthermore, studios are hesitant to produce the type of serialized original programming Netflix is most interested in, because those happen to be the types of shows that networks are least interested in buying for syndication; thus, exhibiting yet another example of media entities being unwilling to adapt quickly enough to the changing times.
Enter the small/up-and-coming producer. When HBO, CBS, Fox, Warner Brothers or Disney won’t take your call, maybe Netflix will start doing just that. They can entertain the small producer, because they know what works for their viewers, and if they have a young producer coming with some semblance of experience, creative ability and packaged talent, then why can’t they provide Netflix with the same type of content that studios are providing? What’s to stop that young writer/director who just can’t work out a deal with HBO from going to Netflix with their next idea and seeing if they want to put it on their website?
And with the acceptance of independent producers comes the ability to generate content that is much more global. Hollywood is still primarily producing American-based content. But independent storytellers from across America can bring a lot more diversity in shows, talent and ideas than what we are used to seeing coming out of LA.
And there’s one more element to this that I think could really benefit Netflix and independent producers…web series. Yes, that dreaded phrase that people long ago thought would change the way content was produced and curated, but to this point, has only yielded a few YouTube stars and the occasional pilot or two every season. But in a world where Netflix uses a whole helluva lotta data to determine what content its users are going to binge consume for hours at a time, a web series with 1-2 years worth of content, audience development, and most importantly, historical data, could be very sexy to Netflix, who may be able to determine how big of a potential draw a web series would get if made into a full-fledged show on its platform.
Needless to say, I’m excited about all of this. Netflix brings an opportunity for independent producers to do bigger projects without going to the studios. It may be a little while a way, but it’s not that far away. It won’t take too long before Hollywood’s sometimes slow-to-adjust ways will deter Netflix and cause them to seek more efficient, digitally-savvy, forward-thinking, cheaper ways of acquiring content. And if there’s anything independent producers learn to be good at, it’s doing things on the cheap.