Does Netflix Have a Marketing Problem When It Comes to New Movies and Shows?

Regardless of an individual’s streaming preference, Hulu and Netflix have been at each other’s throats for nearly two decades. In recent years, studios like Disney, HBO, and Paramount have jumped onto the streaming bandwagon. Yet each streaming platform seems to escape the criticism Netflix receives. Indeed, over the past decade, Netflix has regularly increased its prices while offering less accessibility to multiple users. They have also premiered new series only to cancel them after one season, sometimes two (if they’re “lucky”), claiming viewership numbers were lower than expected. However, Netflix keeps its users’ data private, meaning, if they claim that The Gray Man is the most-watched film of 2022, verifying that claim is nearly impossible.


Despite its numerous problems, Netflix may have a bigger problem: it’s the marketing of new series and movies. While the streamer may keep its users’ data private, they utilize that personalized data the same way Google uses an algorithm in its searches. Essentially, if a user enjoys Stranger Things, other science fiction shows like Ozark and Black Mirror will be recommended over a new science fiction series. Unlike studios that spend upwards of a month advertising a new show or movie through billboards, commercials, and press tours, Netflix spends a minimal amount of time advertising new series and films. This may seem puzzling for such a huge platform, but it’s possible that the way Netflix has done things in the past has informed their present, even if it’s unorthodox.

Integrated, Data-Driven Strategy

Does Netflix Have a Marketing Problem When It Comes to New Movies and Shows?

Netflix uses an integrated, data-driven strategy to recommend any title on their platform, old or new. When logging into the service, your specific profile is filled with recommendations based on your watch history, using a percentage match. This system is the algorithm working in real-time, but it can be somewhat confusing to recommend a title of a show or film that may not be aligned with your tastes. Despite the unusual recommendations, this is how a data-driven strategy works. According to Any Connector, companies that rely on a data-driven strategy look at your history and go forward from there. This is why if you watch a horror flick even once, Netflix will recommend more horror flicks, even if you don’t rate the movie.

In addition to a data-driven strategy, Netflix uses an integrated marketing plan. Essentially, these plans are the overall goal of the company’s campaign for all users, as Marketo explains. This plan is why some films and shows are recommended over others. So, the horror movie you watched once — if it was on your recommended queue — informs Netflix that their integrated marketing plan has been successful.

Related: These Movies Had the Best Marketing Campaigns Ahead of Release

When Netflix Falls Short

The Lost Daughter

Taking into consideration how Netflix marries individual user data with a universal marketing message, the potential for mistakes is high. Though this system pales compared to how long a show or movie is advertised before its release. Most studios will begin marketing a new film a year prior to its release. Six months later, a teaser trailer or paper ad will be released with the official release date. Two months before the premiere, commercials are aired, sometimes at big events, like The Super Bowl in the United States. In the final weeks leading up, the stars of the film will be on late-night talk shows discussing the film. As Polygon describes, Netflix does not follow this strategy because the platform relies on subscribers to binge-watch shows and movies. Furthermore, the binge-dependent strategy only makes room for productions similar to those being binged, meaning new or independent projects are often left to those within that niche.

Series: Then vs Now

Winona Ryder writes on the wall in Stranger Things

Since Netflix is the only streaming service to rely on subscribers’ binge-watching habits for marketing, newer series are pushed to the wayside. Eventually, these new series are canceled due to low viewership, which is directly linked to Netflix’s lack of advertising and reliance on popular shows or celebrities. Studios that went into streaming due to the pandemic were at a slight advantage over Netflix since they built rapport with their audiences long before Netflix. For the pre-pandemic years, most audiences who streamed on Netflix watched comedy specials and reruns of shows like Doctor Who or Sherlock.

Then, a Netflix original series changed everything for the platform: Stranger Things was a conglomeration of something for everyone. A series about teens, set in the 1980s, starring Winona Ryder seemed to have everything audiences were craving. The show was original and unseen, gaining an audience Netflix chose to cater to instead of veteran subscribers. Because Netflix keeled over to popular demands, shows like The End of the F***ing World and Rita end up being hidden gems in list articles like this one from A Good Movie to Watch.

Related: Glass Onion: Did Netflix Mishandle the Movie’s Marketing and Release?

Movies: Franchises and Indie

Dora Postigo as Dora in Rainbow
Colosé Producciones

Netflix’s marketing problem isn’t isolated to its original series. Their anti-marketing campaign is like cancer to independent films. Sometimes a well-known actor will be in an independent film and will gain more viewership than if a lesser-known actor were at the forefront. But consider the original films Netflix makes for a moment. Often, many independent films rely on foreign markets and investors more than a studio like Disney or Paramount does. Directors and producers of indie films have at least one well-known actor at the forefront, as a down payment for investors, to make the film and possibly break even at the box office. But what Netflix does is that they rely on well-known actors to bring in viewers. Thus films like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which has franchise familiarity, have a much better chance of being streamed than a film like Rainbow, which is a new-age spin on The Wizard of Oz, and probably even a movie you’re hearing about for the first time right now. Netflix’s inability to market original and independent films results in their use of these “failed” ventures as a scapegoat.

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