Tag Archives: netflix

Apple’s Rumored Hardware & Content Bundle – Maybe Content is Just for Retention?

blog post maybe content is just a retention tool

I’ve been thinking a lot about the rumor of Apple’s hardware and content subscription bundle. The idea — whether it actually happens or not — is that they’d create a very expensive subscription of $80/month or so that bundles Apple Music, the new Apple original content, Apple Care, iCloud and a new iPhone every year. This is very much a rumor but very viable avenue posited here and by Matthew Ball at Redef.

This immediately reminds me that for years, Americans paid $100+ per month for another expensive hardware and content bundle: cable TV. I remember the salesman coming to my home and explaining to my parents what cable TV included. It was much more than TV, because before the internet, that box was your only gateway to many things. It was movies, music channels, educational programming for your kids, breaking news, live concerts and the hardware to make it all look beautiful on your only screen.

One way to frame Apple’s rumored hardware/content bundle is that they attract you with their device ecosystem (hardware) and then keep you hooked with their shows and music (content). The phone and its TV and cloud components are already a huge draw for audiences so their content can play the role of keeping users engaged there by making that ecosystem useful on a daily basis.

This got me thinking… maybe content isn’t really an effective audience awareness or acquisition tool AT ALL. Maybe, when all the cards fall, content is just the retention piece of a recurring payment business model and other elements of the bundle are what bring you in the door. This is somewhat reflected by the calculus Amazon did around their original video: it turned out that prestige TV shows like Mozart in the Jungle and Man in the High Castle weren’t such an efficient acquisition tool for Prime.

Amazon shows don't easily drive Prime memberships

Check out how this thinking might apply to other businesses. I’ll use this analogy: come for X (acquisition); stay for content (retention).

  • Apple hardware/content bundle – Come for the hardware ecosystem; stay for Oprah.
  • Amazon Prime – Come for free shipping; stay for Nicole Kidman.
  • HQ — Come for a cash prize; stay for the trivia.
  • Facebook — Come for your friends; stay for Facebook Watch.
  • And the corollary seems to also be true with failed SVODs and streaming services — there’s no acquisition component, just a bunch of originals and licensed content to retain the audience that never came.

There are probably a bunch of examples that prove this thesis wrong, chief of which are Netflix and HBO. (But you could argue that they OVER spend on content, trying to force content into becoming an acquisition tool.)

Even if it’s only a little true, it’s a helpful thought experiment: what if you had to launch a streaming service WITHOUT using content to acquire an audience? You’d have to offer real utility to your users — some other valuable product or service that would attract them to your subscription. Apple already has that part figured out: the phone, the ecosystem. And on the content side of your business, brands like Marvel, leagues like the NFL and celebrities like Oprah wouldn’t be as valuable because you already have a giant draw for new users. If your content is only playing the role of retention, it doesn’t need to hit an attention-grabbing must-see fever-pitch. It can be much less ambitious. You can spend way less than Netflix.

Could Disney Be the First to Stream Day-and-Date?

I love how ballsy this would be. Disney is out of Netflix and has announced their plans to make a similar service. And in a guest post on THR, Ben Weiss posits this crazy new move: that Disney could quickly amass a big subscriber base by launching their movies on the service “day-and-date” — that’s the much-feared-by-theaters idea that a movie could be streamed the same day it releases in theaters. 

It’s brilliant because it endruns the entire traditional entertainment distribution-windowing business model in favor of the consumer preference of when-I-want-where-I-want. It would definitely grow them a huge base of subscribers. But they’ll never do it. 

  • Disney is already giving up $300 million in revenue by opting out of Netflix. 
  • Theatrical is the majority of their studio entertainment revenue, about 60%… and a move like this wil piss of theaters and threaten that nut. Theaters may refuse to carry the movies or put them in fewer cities. It may even piss off some consumers who still like the theater experience– if their local chain decides not to carry the movies over this move. 
  • If Disney does day-and-date they’re not just threatening the theatrical revenue. They’re endrunning all of their studio ent distribution: pay TV, home entertainment, etc. Why would another provider value their content the same way if it’s already debuted in a streaming window? 
  • And finally, the REAL business of Disney is parks and products — maybe twice the revenue of all of the studio business. What if this slow, gradual windowing model actually helps propel their brands in those venues? It might be a stretch but my instinct is that being in every theater in America is the best billboard ever for a parks attraction or action figure. Better not mess with that. 

But, boyyyy, would I love to live in a world where studios made distruptive moves like this. I dare you, Bob! 

Secret Access to Netflix’s Algorithm to Help You Understand Your Audience

I talk a TON about how important knowing your target is. You don’t have to be a marketer — even if you’re just MAKING content. You need to know your audience.

Netflix does an incredible job of analyzing their audiences and serving them targeted, empathetic content. And there’s a secret way of leveraging their algorithm, data and analytics to help you understand your own audience.

Secret Codes and Shelves of Targeted Content

Rant standup comedy category on Netflix

Rant Stant-up Comedy, TV Dramas and Understated Comedies are some of the categories on my Netflix homepage.

Netflix has an algorithm that creates “shelves” of movies and shows that they believe please certain content niches. If you use the service, you’ve probably noticed some of them like “Dramas Based on Real Life,” “Rock & Pop Concerts” or “Asian Action Movies.” Some of them get eerily specific, including ones that target specific children within 2-year age ranges.

If you’re trying to target a specific content audience, chances are, Netflix has a very specific category that caters to that target. You can use these shelves to see they types of shows that Netflix believes are “stickiest” for people in that psychographic corner of entertainment. Watch a few of these shows and you’re suddenly inside the mind of that consumer (their wants and fears) or at least beginning to understand what types of content you’re competing with.

The trouble is, Netflix usually picks when to serve these up to you based on your watches, likes/dislikes and preferences. So, if you’re a fan of Thrillers, you usually can’t view the content Netflix recommends for fans of Tearjerkers. The hack, which you may have seen before, is to find the specific “deep link” URL that’s assigned to the category you’re interested in. They follow this pattern netflix.com/browse/genre/#### and some smart people have made them conveniently available in lists like this one and this one. Click on the category or guess the right genre number and you go right to the page of content that Netflix recommends.

Are you targeting kids 11-12? Here are “feel good comedies,” “coming of age” and and just plain movies that Netflix thinks they’ll like. Looking to expand your understanding of the Latin American market? Watch all 182 movie here or get even more specific with “Latin American Crime Movies“. There’s even a section for “deep sea horror” fans.

(The most comprehensive list I could find was split between two pages on What’s On Netflix: Page 1 and Page 2. According to them, new categories pop up almost daily. InstantWatcher also has a good index. )

Getting More Detailed and Selling to Netflix

If you want to get even more granular, you can use these categories with a site like InstantWatcher which will let you narrow your target even more by adding filters like runtime, publish year and Rotten Tomato score.

I believe you could use this info to enhance a pitch for Netflix to buy a series from you. Netflix has said to THR that it doesn’t want content similar to other content they already have:

There’s some overlap but surprisingly little… as a general rule, the audience who watches House of Cards does not watch Hemlock Grove — and yet again, is not the audience that watches Arrested Development. We hope to reach the entire subscriber base with at least one original series by the time we’re done.

This makes sense because they want to attract households with diverse content desires and become broadly popular through many content niches. As Matthew Ball puts it, they want “underlap.” Hence their emphasis on Kids.

This could be important to a content pitch because you want to show them that your content isn’t “too” similar to the content they already have. If you want to make or sell content that doesn’t overlap with their existing library, you could browse categories that are empty or dial in an area in InstantWatcher that they’re lacking.

Pretty soon you’ll be making “Angsty British Military Zombie Sitcoms for Kids 8-9 Years Old.” But with the help of Netflix’s genres algorithm, at least you’ll know what that audience likes.