Gus Cuddy | Essays:

The case for Netflix

26 November 2018

Netflix is making over 700 pieces of original content in 2018, and many people seem to think this is some sort of bad thing. The reasoning goes, I think, that making that many things means they’ll all be terrible.

This is a basic misunderstanding of how Netflix works, but beyond that it’s confusing the relationship between quantity and quality. Yes, many of the 700 will be bad. But the few that won’t? The payoff will be huge. And every time they make something, they will learn a little bit more, and get a little bit better.

Netflix is giving artists a platform and a voice in a way no production company ever has. Last night I saw Roma, the beautiful new Alfonso Cuaron movie, that likely will be competing for Best Picture. Just a few years ago, Netflix producing a movie like this would have been unthinkable—how could a company best known for renting DVDs suddenly get into producing the best film and television around, beating studios at their own game? This movie will be available for everyone to watch on their Netflix accounts on December 14: what was once a tiny limited release only seen by few, is now widely available.

And what’s remarkable is that Netflix, from all accounts, is extremely hands-off. They basically give the artists money, and let them have their own sandbox. Then they rinse and repeat, 700 times over.

I don’t know how you can care about the future of art and not be a little bit excited about this.