Netflix’s New Film Strategy: More About the Audience, Less About Auteurs

Back in, say, 2019, if a filmmaker signed a deal with Netflix, it meant that he or she would be well paid and receive complete creative freedom. Theatrical release? Not so much. Still, the paycheck and the latitude — and the potential to reach the streaming service’s huge subscriber base — helped compensate for the lack of hoopla that comes when a traditional studio opens a film in multiplexes around the world.

But those days are a thing of the past.

Dan Lin arrived as Netflix’s new film chief on April 1, and he has already started making changes. He laid off around 15 people in the creative film executive group, including one vice president and two directors. (Netflix’s entire film department is around 150 people.) He reorganized his film department by genre rather than budget level and has indicated that Netflix is no longer only the home of expensive action flicks featuring big movie stars, like “The Gray Man” with Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans or “Red Notice” with Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnson.

Rather, Mr. Lin’s mandate is to improve the quality of the movies and produce a wider spectrum of films — at different budget levels — the better to appeal to the varied interests of Netflix’s 260 million subscribers. He will also be changing the formulas for how talent is paid, meaning no more enormous upfront deals.

In other words, Netflix’s age of austerity is well underway. The company declined to comment for this article.

“Maestro,” starring and directed by Bradley Cooper, right, was produced by Netflix and cost around $80 million to make. It was nominated for seven Oscars, but did not win any.Credit…Netflix

Now that Netflix has emerged as the dominant streaming platform, it no longer has to pay top dollar to lure auteur filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón and Bradley Cooper. It also helps that some of the big studios are again allowing their films to be shown on Netflix not long after they appear in theaters, providing more content to attract subscribers. The latest list of the 10 most-watched English-language films on the service featured six produced outside Netflix.

Back to top button