How Netflix made hay out of lockdown crisis

While most businesses have been experiencing profit slumps and stagnation during this dormant year, Netflix again became one of those lucrative companies that never let a crisis go wasted.

According to the latest financial report by Business of Apps, Netflix now boasts more than 200 million paid members – a 30 per cent increase since 2019. From its humble origins as a DVD rental shop, it swelled into “one of the most influential companies in Hollywood”. In the UK alone, the number of subscribers surged to 13 million, while Amazon Prime has 7.9 million and Now TV has 1.6 million. 

Overall, Netflix added a whopping 26 million new subscribers worldwide, outstripping Now TV, and Amazon, with Extraction being the most viewed show so far.

The viewing statistics, however, have their nuances. The recently updated metrics have been panned by media critics, because anything that runs over mere two minutes on the Netflix website is counted as a “view”, just like Instagram.

Netflix as a platform has mined a rich seam out of recent cultural trends, becoming a mouthpiece for social progress. One of its most curious aspects is how its influence trickles into the off-screen world, dubbed the “Netflix effect”.

A case in point is The Queen’s Gambit – an original show that tells the story of precocious chess master Beth played by Anya Taylor Joy. Amassing millions of viewers, it concurrently ignited interest in chess among women and catapulted sales for vintage-style chess boards almost overnight.

In an interview for Kindred group, world champion in chess Magnus Carlsen said: “We have already seen that The Queen’s Gambit has increased interest in chess in the general public worldwide, and no doubt this will translate into more people taking up our beloved game. I hope it will increase women’s participation in chess at every level. Any profession or sport dominated by one of the sexes is in significant ways less accessible to the other sex.”

Data demonstrates that Twitch, an online chess platform, owes its 46 per cent extra viewers to the lingering popularity of the show.

Evelyna Kazavaciute, who teaches introduction to media audiences at the University of Cardiff, said: “ The impact of Netflix in our highly digitalised environment cannot be underestimated, it has been at the forefront of social discourses and representations that were before absent in the media industry.

“Such shows as Bridgerton are not perceived any more as culture-jamming with representational tokenism. With its clout, Netflix is clearly entering the ranks of cultural institutions”.

She said the platform’s impact was so overarching, that it’s been incorporated into lectures and seminars at the University of Cardiff.

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