Today saw the announcement of Netflix’s performance report for Q1 2017. The shareholders report contains information on subscribers, revenue and company strategy, but also one other nugget of information: Netflix users have watched over 500 million hours of Adam Sandler in the last 16 months.
“Since the launch of The Ridiculous 6, Netflix members have spent more than half a billion hours enjoying the films of Adam Sandler,” confirmed CEO Reed Hastings in a letter to shareholders.
The statistic underlines the apparent success that Sandler’s original films have had for the streaming service. Indeed, Netflix has recently commissioned the comedian to make another four films, just ahead of the release of its third Sandler original, Sandy Wexler, this weekend. Netflix is also expanding its plans for stand-up comedy, after the return of Dave Chappelle, recently acquired by the site, proved its most-viewed comedy special ever.
“We continue to be excited by our Sandler relationship and our members continue to be thrilled with his films,” said Hastings.
The Sandler success comes as Netflix continues to grow its feature development slate. The company recently hired Scott Stuber to lead its original films initiative, with recent deals for projects including a new film from Justin Lin, prize-winning Sundance documnetary Strong Island, Gareth Evans’ Apostle and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories. The latter will join Bong Joon-ho at Cannes this May, marking Netflix’s first two premieres at the festival.
The streaming giant’s presence at the festival comes despite thorny distribution rules in the country, which mean that any movie screened theatrically cannot be released online for 36 months – while Netflix acquired the global rights to last year’s Camera d’Or winner, Divines, for example, it has not yet been added to Netflix in France. With Amazon placing a greater emphasis on cinema distribution, Netflix’s release strategy has been criticised by some, who complain that Netflix’s acquisition of a film means that it is simply added to the service’s catalogue without any significant promotion.
Netflix, though, continues to prioritise personalised presentation, recommending movies to those expected to enjoy them, rather than to everyone in equal measure – a tactic reinforced by its recent decision to change from stars to a thumbs-up/thumbs-down rating system.
“The amount of usage we get with this new approach is over twice as many ratings,” said Hastings. “With this additional personal input, we’ll be able to improve personalization, making your front screen on Netflix even more relevant.”
Others argue that Netflix is not interested in films, but only interested in commercially beneficial content – although this is arguably not that different to any film studio.
“Our goal remains the same: to offer a variety of new movies that will attract and delight members at better economics relative to licensing movies under traditional windowing,” explained Hastings. “Some of our early movies have been successful by this measure, such as the Sandler movies and Siege of Jadotville. Others, such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, have not.”
Scott’s mandate is to “increase both the portfolio and the percentage of films that delight many of our members relative to the film’s cost”.
In terms of Netflix and cinemas, Hastings offered anolve branch to exhibitors in the USA: “Since our members are funding these films, they should be the first to see them. But we are also open to supporting the large theater chains, such as AMC and Regal in the US, if they want to offer our films, such as our upcoming Will Smith film Bright, in theatres simultaneous to Netflix. Let consumers choose.”
Indeed, with the Will Smith movie costing a reported $90 million, the high-profile blockbuster could be the turning point for the streaming service’s film output, particularly as it plans to spend over $1 billion marketing content in 2017. Either way, it’ll always have Adam Sandler.