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Netflix demonstrates its resilience during prolonged Hollywood strikes

Los Angeles: As most of Hollywood reels from the writers’ and actors’ strikes, streaming pioneer Netflix demonstrated resilience, the company said in its earnings report, gaining more subscribers in a single quarter than at any time in the past three years.

Netflix capitalized on its global production capabilities, as well as the economic hardships of its media rivals, to amass 247 million subscribers in the third quarter, the company said Wednesday – a gain of nearly 9 million over the last three months. That’s the greatest gain since the Covid-19 outbreak fueled unprecedented growth in early 2020.

Media rivals will report their own results in coming weeks, revealing the toll of the industry’s months-long work stoppage, which began when Hollywood’s writers went on strike in May. Members of the Writers Guild of America settled this month, though actors, who walked off the job in July, remain on strike.

US based-broadcast networks during the recent Hollywood strikes were forced to fill their fall lineups with repeats and reality shows. Rival streaming services had to delay new releases and had less foreign-language programming to offer than Netflix, which has production capabilities in more than 50 countries and languages.

“Due to its large international presence, Netflix is positioned better than most entertainment companies in plugging programming gaps from the writers’ and actors’ strikes,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Ross Benes.

“With original US productions delayed and other TV and streaming companies no longer holding exclusive titles with vise grips, expect Netflix to revert to its past when many of its biggest shows were licensed,” Benes said.

A live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series, “One Piece,” which represented a collaboration between Netflix’s US and Japanese content teams, ranked as the top show in 84 countries – a feat that even the popular sci-fi series Stranger Things didn’t accomplish.

Meanwhile, the legal drama Suits, which last aired on the USA Network in 2019, set viewing records when it landed on the streaming service in the summer, one of several television shows Netflix licensed from media competitors that are finding fresh audiences on Netflix.

“Because of our distribution footprint and our recommendation system, we are able to take ‘Suits,’ which had played on other streaming services, and pop it right into the center of the culture in a huge way,” Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said during Wednesday’s investor video.

As talks between the SAG-AFTRA actors’ and performers union and major studios broke down last week, dashing hopes for a quick resolution, Sarandos saw parallels to how Netflix navigated “prolonged and pretty unpredictable production interruptions” during the pandemic.

“These are the times that I’m glad we have such a rich and deep and broad program selection,” Sarandos said.

Still, Netflix is not free from strike disruptions. US-based shows such as mega-hit Stranger Things are on hold until actors return to work. Delays for some of its biggest shows are “problematic” for Netflix because “it doesn’t have the same back catalog as Disney+ to fall back on,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

(Published 19 October 2023, 11:47 IST)

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