FT readers respond: Netflix’s declining subscribers
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Netflix captured FT readers’ attention last week after the popular streaming service warned that subscriber numbers were falling for the first time in a decade.
The drop in user figures triggered Netflix shares to plummet almost 40 per cent last Wednesday. The news had a knock-on effect on other streaming groups, with shares in Disney, Roku and Spotify also falling on the same day.
Netflix said it would bounce back by improving the quality of programming, charging households that share other users’ accounts and launching an advertising-supported version.
Financial Times readers piled into the comments beneath the articles on this topic, with many claiming to have seen it coming. A decline in the quality of Netflix’s content was the top explanation given, followed by the cost of living crisis.
Commenters debated whether Netflix was still good value for money compared with its rivals and satellite television. The issue of piracy was also raised.
There was a widespread dislike of the industry’s pivot towards advertising, with some suggesting that streaming groups should create a subscription bundle or consolidate companies instead.
A range of these comments are published below. Join the conversation by sharing your views in the comment section.
I don’t pay for Netflix
Netflix is a cheap money bubble stock which has had way too long of a run. They borrowed money to produce questionable content, they purposefully suppressed licensed content that people actually wanted so that they could push their own terrible shows. Stranger Things is literally the only thing worth watching. I don’t pay for it — I share like everyone else — but the few times I open the app I spend more time trying to select something worth watching than actually watching anything. When Netflix was TV reruns, it had value. — Economatic
Difficult to justify cost
It is difficult to justify dropping 20 smackers per month as a subsidy for the production of “original content” which is less entertaining than public access. — NG
The new content sucks. It’s all cheap clickbait crime documentaries and rubbish cheap trash TV shows. Gone are the days of high quality risky shows like House of Cards. — Chan
How did they lose the formula so quickly?
On one hand, Netflix started sticking to this ridiculous new approach of cancelling any show that reaches two to three seasons regardless of how good it is. They decided that because production costs increase after a couple of seasons due to higher pay for writers and actors that they’d rather cancel it than maintain high quality content.
On the other hand, it started pumping out the most God-awful reality shows. These are the exact kind of shows that viewers decided they didn’t want to watch when they started cord-cutting and switching to Netflix. Ironically, Netflix has now taken on the early 2000s mainstream TV approach of cheap, mindless reality TV. And they wonder why no one subscribes to Netflix any more?
How did they lose the formula so quickly? Did they start to hire a bunch of ex-network TV execs? — Tony
I subscribe in France where the choice of programming is nowhere near as good as in my native Ireland. Some excellent material that my friends speak about is simply not available on the French server. I looked in vain the other day for [Pedro] Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, for instance. The French feed features a load of second-rate, boring material. As a result, I rarely watch Netflix in Paris and will probably unsubscribe soon. — GaelMag
Beg to differ on value
I beg to differ from most here. I still find Netflix compelling. We paid Dish Network almost $200 a month for their utter garbage. Netflix monthly subscription is paid off by watching a single movie on it. A visit to the theatre is more than a month’s fee for Netflix for the two of us. God forbid we have popcorn — then it’s the equivalent of two months’ subscription. Two American-size soda puts you back a quarterly subscription. — Middle Path
For the young ones
Kids content is solid with Netflix. My young ones get the £10 per month value easily.
As an adult, I always pop it open, browse then close it to go find something else. — Gdjdjhdhhhheje
Willing to pay but can’t
Where I live, in the EU, I can’t even legally buy access to certain shows — the likes of Peaky Blinders is only available via a VPN/DNS proxy hack or downloading via torrent etc.
If I have to put the effort into learning how to pirate some prime shows, then it’s easy enough for me to extend that to other shows which are legally available via streaming services. Basically the fragmentation of the market and the lack of global licensing deals means piracy is likely always on the table for those of us who are willing to pay but can’t — and then it’s a short step to just not paying for the stuff we can. — Superfluous
Netflix managed to pull off one of the best business moves in history by convincing tech-savvy people to abandon free but risky and time-consuming pirated content by having everything available instantly and without ads for a low fee. A magic trick also performed by Spotify.
That era is over as more and more companies have cannibalised Netflix’s market and the content is now siloed in multiple places and far more expensive.
The tech-savvy are fleeing back to pirated material and they are unlikely to come back. — Hjaltlander
No ads or else
Talk of the streamers becoming “ad supported”. They’d better be careful how they do that — no ads is one of the main reasons I subscribe to streaming services. First sign of ads in the middle of a programme, especially if they can’t be zapped, and I’m cancelling. — Stevie
Data mining of viewing habits
More concerning to me is the softening position on advertising. If they introduce ads that would be a hard cancel for me. The ads would be driven from data mining of viewing habits, no thanks. — Xedarius
Go woke, go broke.
Not the whole story, but being preached to half the time with subliminal messages is not my idea of fun. — Credit2020
Rivals are light years ahead
HBO Max, Disney+ and Apple TV — light years ahead of Netflix in terms of quality content. Quality over quantity and less preachy social justice lectures.
Apple, while [it has] less produced content, has an advantage — want something that’s not in their bundle? You have the option to buy pretty much anything. Netflix? Walled garden of garbage.
Prime is somewhere in between. — Ctrlaltdelete
Focus on revenue and earnings
Don’t really get the focus on subscriber growth. If you reach a certain market penetration your growth in that area will of course slow. If you remove the accounts in Russia that were shut down then Netflix added 500,000 new subscribers actually.
Focus should be on revenue and earnings growth, not subscriber growth.
Or should we focus on the number of cars sold and ask Porsche to make cars that cost €10,000 instead, so they can show incredible “growth”? — Hastings
Cost of living crisis
There are going to be a lot more Netflixes as the cost of living crisis starts to bite.
Huge rises in fuel prices, and now starting to affect food prices — I saw 25 per cent on fish, 30 per cent on loo rolls only yesterday! — means that anything regarded as inessential, like Netflix, will soon get the chop. — BrentryEd
Doom mongering made me cut back
We subscribe to Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Netflix. I haven’t used Netflix in six months. My mother in law was using it . . . I figured why am I paying for her to use it when she’s on more money in her retirement than I am . . . so it went.
Amazon Prime Video is free with Amazon Prime. And Disney’s back catalogue is also amazing and [has] constantly good shows or golden oldies coming through. Basic issue is this: perception of inflation and the doom-mongering has made me cut back on things, not because I have to but just to be prudent. Pilates is out, eating out less, haggling more. Will save us about £800-£1,500 a month in discretionary spending. — AndyKaufmann
Netflix is the easiest to lose
I am going to claim I did foresee this based on my own experience as a customer of Netflix.
Netflix has a bunch of new competitors, including Amazon and Apple whose services are effectively free to many users including me, and Disney+ which I have to subscribe to to buy me some peace from my kids of a Saturday. When you add in Sky, which is much more expensive than the others, but which is also much more disruptive to get rid of, this means that we have too many services, and Netflix is the easiest to lose.
We and many of our friends have frequently discussed getting rid of Netflix for this reason in the last year or so, and discussed how they were competitively screwed; clearly I’m not claiming that I would [have] predicted its stock would specifically crater this week. — Rb2
We have yet to subscribe to a streaming service — but ever-deteriorating TV is pushing us this way. But the plethora of services definitely puts us off. So, still buying individual shows at the moment. A subscription bundle would be interesting. — Willstewart
It’s economics 101:
Demand has fallen as lockdowns have ended and cost of living has jumped.
Supply has increased as competition has increased.
Next stage: industry consolidation. — Dr Watt’s Library
Prospect of a revival
BBC’s Money Box was reporting that many hard pressed UK consumers have cancelled subscription services to balance their household budgets. Netflix has always had customer churn.
A revival of domestic discretionary spending in a few years time holds prospect to a revival — if the executives do not lose their heads. — EcoLord
The bright side
The bright side: maybe more people are getting a life. — Uff da!
*Comments have been edited for length and style