The meaning of “Stranger Things” for Netflix

The first season Stranger things appeared on Netflix in July 2016: at the time, it was a series of modest ambitions, invented by Matt and Ross Duffer, two twins in their 30s, hitherto unknown to most. He told a supernatural story with young children as heroes, set in the 1980s in a small American town, and the Duffers introduced it as “Steven Spielberg’s film about a Stephen King novel found many years later.”

His promotion was limited, but initially, mostly through word of mouth, it went exceptionally well. So much so that today, six years after the first season and three years after the end of the third season, Stranger things is considered to be the greatest intellectual property that Netflix has in its hands, according to New York Times: “One of the greatest pop phenomena of the streaming era”. The series, whose fourth and penultimate season (which will be released in two parts, May 27 and July 1) is now considered decisive for Netflix’s near future.

(Netflix)

This has changed in these six years Stranger Things – whose fourth season will have cinematic episodes, for an estimated average cost of $ 30 million each, with the protagonists busy solving bigger and more complicated problems – but the context in which it will be viewed has also changed a lot. In fact, in 2016, Netflix subscribers were around 80 million, just over a third of those present, and Netflix grew rapidly and surprisingly. Amazon Prime Video still had to come to Italy, and Disney + and Apple TV + didn’t even exist.

In mid-2022, Netflix finds itself in a completely different situation: it suffers from fierce competition from other emerging services (notably Disney +, which will make the series online on May 27). Obi-Wan Kenobi), cut more than 150 employees and recently had fewer subscribers than in the previous quarter, a process that has never been the case in the last decade. Netflix, whose stock is now worth less than a third of what it was worth in early 2022, is in great need Stranger things – and all the associated money, which it guarantees through contracts for various products, games and video games – to be recovered from different points of view.

Why Stranger things is they become great, all possible answers revolve around a simple fact: the show, which came out virtually by surprise, was liked for the way it managed to combine a lot of winks for those who remembered the 80s with the freshness with which it presented. the eyes of younger viewers.

As they say in the jargon, it was a series of “four quadrants”, that is, capable of satisfying four very important categories of audience: men and women over and under 25 years of age. It was scary but not too scary, full of quotes but you didn’t have to cover them all, it was for the kids but also for the parents of these kids (or vice versa). It just got done right: or at least that’s what a large number of viewers and many critics thought, whose reviews were between good and excellent.

It is difficult to have accurate data on how much it has grown Stranger things between the first and third season, because Netflix provides them as they like and, among other things, because it has changed the type of data it usually shares in the meantime. It is known that the series’ third season, released in 2019, amassed over 580 million viewing hours in the first 28 days on the Internet, which places it among the most watched on Netflix: the ones that did the best are newer when the number of subscribers was already much higher than in 2019.

Reliable external analyzes, obtained by crossing different kinds of data about what we are looking for or talking about a certain series, also say about another very important thing: the first three seasons Stranger things they managed to get people to talk about themselves long enough, they produced memes that lasted longer than the weekend for many viewers to see, while many others were already in the last episode. Although his reviews dropped between the first and third seasons (a phenomenon common to many series), the data processed by Parrot Analytics and cited by Vulture They say that Stranger things he represented the rare case of a show that, even in almost three years without a new episode, was watched by a significant number of viewers; or at least be present on the Internet with pictures, news and various trailers.

Even more than simple numerical success, good or slightly worse reviews, or even total cumulative viewing hours, the value of Stranger things because Netflix is ​​all about having turned out to be malevolent intellectual property. In a context where everyone competes for the “new” Game of ThronesAnd where Amazon spends hundreds of millions of dollars just to get the rights to shoot the show Lord of the Rings, the ability to build a new narrative world at home and out of nowhere is of great value. It is no coincidence that Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, described it as “the greatest and most enduring content brand never created by the company ”.

Thanks to its supernatural ingredient, thanks to a story that begins in the small town of Hawkins but then spreads to the world and Cold War storylines, and thanks to a series of effective heroes who are just over twenty years old, Stranger things may think it is similar, albeit with the right proportion, to Harry Potter. That is, a story that doesn’t really end entirely in some book, movie or episode, set in a world from which you can still draw stories and excuses to sell new products. In this sense, Stranger things offers more perspectives than similar series Paper house about Bridgertonjust as successful but less expandable.

As he noted Vulture, services like Apple TV +, Disney + and Netflix are so great that it is unreasonable to think that the show itself can “build or destroy the fate of the entire platform.” It is true, however, that only in the coming months Stranger things this will be decisive for Netflix, as it is one of the few series that alone can move a significant number of subscribers. And Netflix subscribers are crucial as your primary source of income.

(Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

Stranger things is considered to be such a large, popular and anticipated series that it is considered realistic that its fourth season will set new viewership records and that it is considered likely, or even probable, to convince a significant number of viewers to cancel the program, subscribe to them, or make or remake one just to see its new season (and possibly, sooner or again, the other three). Netflix has been expecting to lose around two million viewers in the current quarter for some time: as there have been no new viewers in recent months. Squid gamesif Netflix were to lose fewer subscribers than expected, and perhaps even gain, much of the credit would go to Stranger things.

(Courtesy of Netflix © 2022)

More importantly, if that were the case with Netflix, it would be proof that in order to resist the likes of Disney and Amazon (and their large intellectual property with already established narrative worlds), it may continue to seek and invest in new opportunities. Stranger thingsable to start small and grow up over time, lasting for years and occupying a place in cultural discourse for months.

Aside from a few other, more technical reasons, the very fact that Netflix decided to release Stranger things in two parts, May 27 and July 1, can be seen as a sign of trust on the part of Netflix. The belief that some users will remain subscribers in both May and July just to see it, and the confidence that there will still be a lot of talk in July about the show that is already being talked about. Which, for starters, would let Netflix unfold in two different quarters, the numbers generated by the franchise it hopes will be very good to reassure shareholders.

On the contrary, if not even Stranger things should it prove to be able to reverse or even slow down the loss of subscribers, the situation would become very complicated: even before the end of the Stranger things in fact, it would become both a symptom and a symbol of Netflix’s problems.

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