Original Content: The Key To Netflix Success

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Source: Netflix

The success of Netflix Originals is monumental. The streaming service has become synonymous with providing an abundance of entertaining (and addictive) original series, specials, films, and documentaries—however, not all of their impact is always positive.

Netflix began its online streaming service back in 2010, with its first foray into original content coming in the form of the 2013 Emmy Award-Winning series House of Cards. Since then, the company has gone on to produce over 1,500 original titles, with Stranger Things, Money Heist, Birdbox, and The Irishman being some of their most well-known projects. 

The popularity of such Netflix series and films is often unforeseen and unintended, and we have seen numerous shows over time amass an immense amount of popularity that also have consequences in the real world. Whether it be shooting its cast to overnight success or bringing international content into the global mainstream, Netflix holds a real dominance over the streaming—and corporeal—world.

‘Green Light’ For Success

South Korean survival drama Squid Game is Netflix’s most recent golden child. This series captured audiences across the globe, becoming Netflix’s biggest series ever with 111 million users in its first 28 days. Kim Min-young, Netflix’s vice president for content in Korea, South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, added that, “Squid Game has broken through beyond our wildest dreams.” On October 2nd, it impressively ranked #1 in all streaming countries on Netflix.

The dystopian show, which can be best explained as an unusual cross between The Hunger Games and Black Mirror, explores the desperation of debt-ridden members of society who sign their life away to a ruthless battle for ₩45.6 billion, the equivalent of £28.2 million. Contestants face a series of children’s games, but with a catch: if you lose, you die.

Source: Netflix

The show has become such a global phenomenon that Netflix is now facing legal action. South Korean internet provider SK Broadband has argued that the traffic from Netflix in September 2021 is 24 times the amount of May 2018 and that they should be paying more network usage fees. This surge can be attributed to the unprecedented popularity caused by Squid Game, released September 24—indeed, it is astounding that a show has become so popular that it can be sued.

The creator of the show, Hwang Dong-hyuk, recently stated that he created the idea for Squid Game back in 2008, but then gave up on the project. He added: “People commented on how the series is relevant to real life. Sadly, the world has changed in that direction.” It’s fair to say it was the right call, as it wouldn’t have reached quite the same global success back in 2008 without the help of Netflix.

Shooting to Fame

The Netflix Originals that do acquire worldwide recognition have the potential to catapult their cast to superstardom. A prime example is Regé-Jean Page from Bridgerton. Before starring in his break-out role as Simon Basset, he had a few small-scale appearances in shows such as Casualty and Fresh Meat, as well as a regular role in series ten of Waterloo Road.

Source: Liam Daniel/Netflix

His appearance on the regency romance drama was met with widespread popularity, with the show becoming the most-watched Netflix television series ever at the time. The star, however, is not set to return for season two, adding “I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit and then the Bridgerton family rolls on”. I just hope he wasn’t the glue that kept the show together, as we all know what can happen when a main and integral star leaves an extremely popular show (like when Steve Carell left The Office US and let us all down).  

Since appearing on the show, Page has signed up for multiple exciting projects—including the lead in an untitled Netflix thriller heist movie, the new Dungeons and Dragons remake, and the Russo brothers’ directed film The Gray Man. His rise to global fame has also seen him present an episode of Saturday Night Live. Even more astounding is that he’s now the favourite to become the next James Bond, overtaking megastars such as Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill, and Idris Elba. Not bad for a previously unknown actor.

Baskin’ in Success

Tiger King. Where do I even start with Tiger King? This bizarre – and downright shocking – series looked at big cat owners and exploitation, introducing us to the now-household names of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. The docuseries had the UK hooked, with 34 million viewers within the first 10 days of launch, although this was certainly supported by the global pandemic and lockdown.

Source: Netflix

Tiger King’s popularity had some more shocking implications than any other Netflix series, however. Joe Exotic’s popularity and online hatred both surged after the show, although this growth was stunted due to a 22-year prison sentence for animal abuse and two murder-for-hire charges. Even in prison, I’m sure eccentric Exotic is basking in his online fame and is milking it for all it’s worth. Even locked away he’s attempting to remain relevant… I’m sure Christmas lists will be filled with “innocent king” coffee flasks this year (not joking). 

Carole Baskin didn’t appeal to audiences either, becoming one of the least favourable stars of the show. A shocking prospect, considering she was nearly the victim of murder. Tiger King involved a Baskin-centred murder mystery, discussing the disappearance of her ex-husband with most viewers labeling her as the culprit. She went on to become a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, albeit short-lived, and performed to (you guessed it) Eye of the Tiger.  

It’s crazy to think that both a criminal and an animal activist accused of murdering her husband have been shot into the limelight purely because of a Netflix Original series. The issue with overnight success is that it’s hard to maintain, more so for those who aren’t actors and can’t move on to another project. It’s arguable that the Tiger King cast has already disappeared from the public eye, which could be why Netflix is (somehow) bringing back the series on November 17.

So… what’s next?

As Netflix’s popularity only continues to grow, new series and returning favourites are set to break even more records. The Netflix Originals event TUDUM set 2022 as an exciting year for releases, confirming the return of hit shows such as Stranger Things and Sex Education and showing teasers for new movies such as Don’t Look Up.

I had the initial feeling that Netflix’s popularity and impact on the entertainment industry would start to fade once other platforms like Disney+ and Hulu joined the streaming game—needless to say, I was wrong. Netflix dominates the calendar with original content and it seems to be facing a constant battle over which series gets the most viewers and has the most impact. Their success could well be neverending if they continue producing the quality content we’ve seen in the past few years. 

Netflix truly is the king of streaming. Although movies and series come and go from the platform, they have such a solid base of original content to keep viewers hooked (and people paying).

Words by Alex O’Leary


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