Netflix Flexes Talent for Picking Winners and Getting the Royal Treatment

Ever since Netflix started producing original content, the streaming service began to transform the small screen marketplace. With massive hits like Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black, Narcos, Daredevil, and Ozark, the streaming service changed the way people watched – and talked about – television, while transforming the kind of programming people could see on TV. Sure, there have been some “misses” over the years, but for the most part, Netflix has gotten significant to acceptable ROI from its original programming.

Over the years, Netflix has also shown a good aptitude for picking winners that languished in obscurity on other platforms or networks. One of the latest examples of this is the recently acquired Cobra Kai series. For two seasons, the nostalgic throwback to The Karate Kid, one of the most popular movies of the 1980s – a true cultural touchstone for that generation – was only available on YouTube’s pay service.

While the program garnered a solid following, it probably could have done much better. Both critics and fans love the show, saying it hits the right mix of modern storytelling and fun nostalgia. There are plenty of in-jokes for fans of the original dropped into a story that is a good fit for 21st-century sensibilities.

Despite this, even after the series garnered Emmy nominations, it still struggled to find a consistent audience because of the platform. In fact, it might have been the strongest signal yet that consumers are not ready for original TV programming from the YouTube platform. They love the platform for its user-generated content, but they want to watch scripted dramas elsewhere.

The strongest evidence for this is that it only took a few days for Cobra Kai to hit number one on Netflix’s trending ranking. Demand exploded over the following weekend, and the announcement that a third season of the show, produced as a Netflix original, would debut in 2021 was greeted with serious excitement.

Another example of the “right show / wrong platform” finding the right fit on Netflix is the former Fox supernatural dramedy, Lucifer. Canceled after three seasons by Fox, the show found new life and a large new audience on Netflix, where it has appeared in the top 10 listing multiple times.

The PR takeaway here is that a good product can be made better or worse based on the audience. If a product is not tailored for a specific audience, it should be presented to an audience whose expectations are most closely aligned with what that product offers. In this case, both Cobra Kai and Lucifer found an inviting home on Netflix, because that audience had already become accustomed to – made big hits of – similar programs, even those that are, to use network TV vernacular, “re-runs.”

Netflix Gets the Royal Treatment

Just when it looked like things could not get any better for streaming powerhouse Netflix, the company just announced a partnership with none other than the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known the world over as Prince Harry and Meghan.

Fans around the world wondered what was next for the British power couple when they made a public break from their connections with – and duties of – the royal family, at least for their work. Now, some of those questions are being answered in a big way. A recent press release announced that the couple would be producing a nature series, documentaries, and children’s programming for Netflix.

According to media coverage of the announcement, Harry and Meghan plan to cover “stories and issues that elevate diverse voices and other issues close to our hearts…” which leaves a lot of latitude for both creativity and interpretation. However, since a few of the projects are already under development, fans do have an idea of what they can expect to see first.

Early on in this endeavor, coming out of the gate is an expected docu series focused on “women who inspire.” Announcing this project, Harry and Meghan offered this joint statement: “Our lives, both independent of each other and as a couple, have allowed us to understand the power of the human spirit, of courage, resilience, and the need for connection… Through our work with diverse communities and their environments, to shining a light on people and causes around the world, our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope…”

While Meghan has already said she has no plans to return to acting, she says she wants to produce projects that employ diversity both in front of and behind the camera. Meanwhile, Harry recently worked on a project for Netflix in which he will be on film. That documentary, Rising Phoenix, has already launched on the streaming network.

Speaking of this multi-project deal, Netflix Co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, said: “(Harry and Meghan) have inspired millions of people all around the world with their authenticity, optimism, and leadership… (Netflix) is proud to be their creative home and looks forward to telling stories with them that can help build resilience and increase understanding for audiences everywhere.”

The partnership is an opportunity for Netflix to expand its consumer offerings by marketing to a built-in international audience that loves anything attached to the royal family, as well as fans of Harry and Meghan in particular. And the royal couple from Sussex can use this partnership as a brand-building springboard into what they hope to do next in their lives while increasing their market presence and leverage in the entertainment space.

All in all, this deal has strong potential for a win-win for all parties involved, as long as the right message gets out to enough potential fans and the programs produced to meet the target audience’s expectations.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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