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The Binge-Watching Continues. What's Behind Netflix's Success?46:23
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The Netflix logo displayed on a screen. (freestocks/Unsplash)MoreCloseclosemore
The Netflix logo displayed on a screen. (freestocks/Unsplash)

With David Folkenflik

Netflix now makes more television than any network in history and the hits keep coming. What’s the secret sauce?

Guests:

Joe Adalian, west coast editor of New York Magazine’s Vulture.com. (@TVMoJoe)

Kim Masters, editor-at-large for The Hollywood Reporter. (@kimmasters)

Jessica Kruger, professor at the University at Buffalo whose research focuses on consumption and addictive behaviors, including how binge-watching affects mental health.

From The Reading List:

Vulture: "Inside the Binge Factory" — "One of Hollywood’s great unsolved mysteries of late has been how Netflix determines whether a show is a fit with its brand. Most traditional networks, even those aimed at a relatively broad swath of viewers, use their programming to define carefully crafted identities. HBO, FX, and AMC, for example, want critical acclaim and Emmys, even if that sometimes means a smaller audience. Sarandos, however, says he doesn’t like to limit his options. 'I don’t want any of our shows to define our brand, and I don’t want our brand to define any shows,' he tells me, sitting in his office, where not one but three posters for The Godfather hang. 'There’s no such thing as a ‘Netflix show.’ That as a mind-set gets people narrowed. Our brand is personalization.'

That quest for personalization explains why Netflix’s U.S. originals keep nosing into new genres. A couple years ago, some of Holland’s team saw an opportunity to reinvent young-adult dramas; out of that push came last year’s hit 13 Reasons Why and this year’s buzzy coming-of-age comedy On My Block. The company is also ramping up its unscripted offerings after realizing how popular the form was with its users. 'One in three subscribers watch Netflix unscripted shows monthly,' says Netflix content VP Bela Bajaria, whose team scored an early victory with its Queer Eye reboot.

Because of Netflix’s Silicon Valley roots, many assume the company’s vaunted algorithm is where its decision-making process starts. But at almost every opportunity, Sarandos and Holland downplay the role data plays. 'You have to be very cautious not to get caught in the math, because you’ll end up making the same thing over and over again,' Sarandos says. 'And the data just tells you what happened in the past. It doesn’t tell you anything that will happen in the future.'"

The Hollywood Reporter: "The Netflix Backlash: Why Hollywood Fears a Content Monopoly" (From 2016) — "Certainly Netflix is far cheaper than cable, and subscribers can access a cornucopia of content, from an intense drama like Narcos to a comedy as weird as Maria Bamford's Lady Dynamite. There are documentaries, children's programs, Adam Sandler movies and Beasts of No Nation. 'They're like a giant shopping mall,' says one agent. 'They're trying to fill those spaces with something for everyone. They literally are trying to fill every space.'

Despite the company's ability to know exactly what is being watched and for how long, the service isn't immune to the unpredictability that's made Hollywood a pretty crazy place for a century or so. Sarandos acknowledged during a recent THR roundtable that Stranger Things, which was spurned elsewhere but became a summer hit, was a 'big surprise.'"

The Conversation: "Those post-binge-watching blues? They might be real" — "Many report feeling sad or anxious once a TV binge-watching session has concluded. In an essay for The New York Times, writer Matthew Schneier reported feeling 'anxious, wistful, bereft' as his binge of Aziz Ansari’s popular comedy series 'Master of None' neared its end.

A couple of years ago, one binge-watcher interviewed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said she felt 'depression' and 'emptiness' after finishing her favorite shows.

Are these merely the experiences of a few people who have watched too much TV (and could probably use some fresh air)? Or could binge-watching actually affect your health and well-being?

There’s been limited empirical research on the consequences of binge-watching. So with the advantage of a large sample size, we conducted one of the first forays into studying binge-watching from a public health perspective."

Netflix has streamed into the American consciousness as surely as it has streamed shows into our homes, minting hits with House of Cards and most recently The Crown. Netflix is serving up waves of new programming, changing our viewing habits, and scaring Hollywood. This hour, On Point – behind the scenes at Netflix, — David Folkenflik.

This program aired on June 12, 2018.

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