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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paris Hilton Recalls “Cruel” David Letterman Interview: “It Was Like He Was Just Purposefully Trying To Humiliate Me”

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  • Footage of David Letterman’s 2007 interview with Paris Hilton resurfaced last month, showing him repeatedly pressing Hilton about her time in jail.
  • Despite Hilton’s visible discomfort and repeated attempts to avoid the topic, Letterman continued to ask about it for six minutes of the eight-minute-long segment.
  • Hilton addressed the clip on Monday during her “This is Paris” podcast, noting that Letterman’s team had promised he would not bring the subject up at the time.
  • “It was like he was just purposefully trying to humiliate me,” she said. “I thought he would keep his word on this and I was wrong…he just kept pushing me and pushing me and I was just getting uncomfortable and I was so upset.”

Letterman Interview Goes Viral

Paris Hilton called a 2007 interview she did with talk show host David Letterman “cruel” on Monday’s episode of her podcast “This is Paris.”

The clip started going viral in February as the “Framing Britney Spears” documentary prompted many to look at the culture of misogyny that dominated media in the 2000s. Many began to see the careers of young starlets of that era in a new light, including Spears, Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and more. Some started sharing old footage of these stars being mistreated or berated by prominent media figures. 

In this 2007 clip, Letterman repeatedly asks Hilton about her time in jail even though Hilton asks to change the subject multiple times. Still, he spends over six of the eight minute segment hounding her about her experience. 

How’d you like being in jail?” He asked her almost immediately. “God that was just a horrible thing, wasn’t that horrible?

Hilton persistently asked to talk about her upcoming movie and fragrance, which she was on the show to promote in the first place. Letterman instead had her detail the meals she ate, asked if she made friends in jail, and pressed on several other aspects of her sentencing. 

“I’ve moved on with my life. So I don’t really want to talk about it anymore,” Hilton said at one point. 

“Well I appreciate that, but this is where you and I are different,” Letterman responded. “This is all I want to talk about.” 

He then insisted that she might be able to serve as some kind of warning and example for other young people. 

“Do you get correspondence like that from kids and teachers and clergymen and stuff?” he asked.

I’m going on to the next question. I’m over it,” Hilton replied. 

Letterman then told her that “in all seriousness now, this could be your legacy.

He continued to bring the subject up for another minute until Hilton told him she was starting to regret appearing on the show.

“Now you’re making me sad that I came here because you’re hurting my feelings,” she said. 

Hilton Recounts “Cruel” Interview

The clip generated a lot of outrage from people who were upset that Letterman was hounding a young woman who had just gone through a rough time. Others took issue with the fact that he blatantly refused her requests to change the subject. Now, Hilton has shared her own thoughts on the expereince.

The heiress said that she only agreed to sit down for the interview because her PR team worked out a deal with the show to make her stint in jail an off-limits topic. 

“I felt like it was a safe place because I had been going on Letterman for so many years and, you know, he would always have fun with me and joke around but, you know, I thought he would keep his word on this,” she said on her podcast. “And I was wrong.” 

“So there was not supposed to be one question and then he just kept pushing me and pushing me and I was just getting uncomfortable and I was so upset,” she continued. 

Hilton said that after the interview was done, she walked off stage to her sister with tears in her eyes. 

“It was like he was just purposefully trying to humiliate me,” Hilton explained. “And during commercial breaks I would be like, ‘please stop doing this, like you promised me you wouldn’t talk about this. That’s the only reason I came on this show. Please don’t bring it up again.’ He’s like ‘okay’ and then [he would] again.” 

“It was just very cruel and very mean,” she said.

Hilton explained that after the interview, she told Letterman she would never return to his show because he had “crossed a line” with her. She said the host ended up sending her wine, letters, and continuously apologized until she agreed to go on his show again to promote another fragrance. Hilton said her next appearance on the show was far more pleasant. 

She also said she is glad that the world is a more understanding place when it comes to topics like mental health, the MeToo and Times Up movements, and other subjects, meaning something like this would likely not happen again.

“I’m so happy that it’s different today,” she said. “Just for people who are coming up in the industry, who are new to this. You know, I wouldn’t wish what happened to me upon anyone, not even my worst enemy.”

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (The Independent) (Paper Magazine)

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Taylor Swift Slams “Ginny & Georgia” for “Deeply Sexist” Joke About Her

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  • Netflix’s new series “Ginny & Georgia” is facing criticism for featuring a joke about Taylor Swift’s dating history.
  • “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” a character in the show said, which the singer’s fans have denounced as a misogynistic remark. 
  • For many, the joke is especially frustrating because Swift has long been critical of this narrative and sexism in general in several interviews, songs, and even her own Netflix documentary: “Miss Americana.” 
  • “2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” Swift tweeted Monday, adding, “Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Happy Women’s History Month I guess.”

“Ginny & Georgia” Sparks Outrage

Singer Taylor Swift criticized Netflix’s new series “Ginny & Georgia” on Monday for including a “deeply sexist” joke about her dating history.

In one episode of the show, which debuted last week, the character Georgia asks her daughter Ginny if she has broken up with her boyfriend.

What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” Ginny replies.

After seeing this, were quick to defend the singer, slamming the remark as misogynistic and causing the phrase “RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” to start trending Sunday.

It even prompted fans to point to a 2017 episode of” Degrassi: Next Class,” which is also co-produced by Netflix, along with other companies.

In that episode, a character says, “Taylor Swift made an entire career off of her exes.”

“RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” Becomes Trending Topic

For many fans, these types of jokes are especially frustrating because Swift has long been critical of this narrative and sexism in general.

She’s addressed it in several interviews, songs, and even her own Netflix documentary: “Miss Americana.” Some online even pointed out that Swift trusted Netflix with that documentary as well as the concert film for her Reputation tour.

Swift took to Twitter Monday to address the joke herself.

“Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” she wrote.

“How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Happy Women’s History Month I guess”

Now, many are calling on Netflix and the series to apologize. Others are pointing to other stars who are often shamed for their dating history in the media, including Ariana Grande and Lori Harvey.

See what others are saying: (Cosmopolitan) (CNN) (PEOPLE)

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Netflix To Invest $100 Million in Diversity Initiative

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  • Netflix will invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity both in front of and behind the camera. 
  • This comes after the streaming service released a report on diversity in its original programming, which found that the company made strides for women and Black characters on screen but lacked in other areas.
  • For both film and television, Latino characters only made between 1.7% and 5% of lead roles and main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population.
  • The report also found that just 2% of speaking roles in film and 3.3% of speaking roles in series were for LGBTQ characters.

Netflix Invests in Diversity

Netflix announced plans on Friday to invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity in all areas of production.

Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, wrote in a blog post explaining that this fund will invest in company programs aimed at identifying, training, and providing job opportunities for-up-and coming talent in the industry. It will invest in numerous organizations with “a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries.

This comes as the streaming giant just released a massive report on its own diversity, done by Dr. Stacy Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The study analyzed 180 scripted series and 126 films Netflix released in 2018 and 2019 to find where the studio has succeeded and where it needs to break ground. 

Dr. Smith said a report of this nature is both unique and historic. 

“At the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, we’re not aware of any other company taking a leadership role and making their findings as transparent and rolling out those results to all the communities,” she claimed in a video explaining the results of her research. 

“Given the size and scope of Netflix content, particularly as it relates to its entertainment industry peers, the results show one thing very clear — Netflix is committed to inclusion across its content portfolio,” she continued. 

Findings of the Report

Among the more positive findings, the report said that Netflix programs reflect gender equality when it comes to main roles, with 48% of films and 54% of shows having women leads or co-leads. It also found that 19% of lead roles went to male and female characters with unrepresented backgrounds, which is more than the industry at large did in the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019.  

When it comes to behind-the-camera film roles for women, Netflix is also outpacing the progress the industry is making overall. The company hired women to direct 23% of its movies, compared to just 7.6% of women who directed the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019. Netflix also employed female writers and producers at a significantly higher rate. 

The report found that the more women were working behind the camera, the more women wound up in front of it as well. 

“Inclusion happens when women are given the keys to the kingdom,” Dr. Smith said in a video explaining the results of her research. 

Still, there were many strides Netflix has yet to make when it comes to representation. While it did hire women of color to direct its films at three times the rate the industry in general did, they still only totaled just over 6% of directors for the studio. When it came to women of color directing television, Netflix fell behind industry-wide statistics. 

The report found that 15% of leads and co-leads were Black characters and almost 20% of main casts were Black, which is on par for the U.S. population. However, when it comes to other underrepresented groups, the studio lacked. 

For both film and television, Latino characters only made up between 1.7% and 5% of leads or main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population. Additionally, the report noted that when it came to series, just 3% of creators and producers and 2% of writers and directors were Latino. For film, the studio employed just one Latino writer and director and only five producers. 

LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities were likewise underrepresented. Just 2% of speaking roles for film and 3.3% of speaking roles for TV went to characters that identified as LGBTQ. 

Less than 2% of speaking film characters and 2.4% of speaking television characters had disabilities, compared to 27% of the American population identifying as having some sort of disability. 

What Netflix Will Do Next

Netflix plans to take this data and build upon its findings. 

“Great stories can truly come from anywhere, be created by anyone, whatever their background, and be loved everywhere,” Sarandos wrote. “And by better understanding how we are doing, we hope to stimulate change not just at Netflix but across our industry more broadly.”

During a virtual symposium, leaders at Netflix discussed the research and why it is important to the industry and the company. 

“Part of young boys and girls seeing themselves, seeing who they are in those roles and making sure that we don’t have ‘Black Panther’ once a decade, that we have films where young people of color, young women can see themselves as heroes in active roles,” Netflix’s Vice President of Global film, Scott Stuber said. 

He added that the new Netflix film “Jingle Jangle” starring Kegan Michael Key and Forest Whitaker was just one recent example of diversity on screen making a difference. 

“The outpouring from the Black community, having a holiday film that represented them and their families, was an incredible thing for our filmmaker and for our company. And I think we have to continue to think in those terms.”

Sarandos says Netflix is committed to its work with Dr. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The two will work together to release a report every two years between now and 2026. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (New York Times)

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