The Netflix Paradox
I’m not ashamed to admit I only watch The Super Bowl for the ads. The thing is, I’m a bit more particular in my shameless consumerism, and I’d like to believe I’ve earned some dignity: I only watch for the trailers.
The new Star Wars trailer -Solo- was surprisingly good. The logo and name are ridiculous, but the movie definitely looks like the dose of EU the new SW universe needs. Westworld’s trailer, too, has me excited for what’s likely to be a riveting new season of robotic philosophy and warfare.
But one trailer totally took me by surprise: The Cloverfield Paradox.
I’ve expected the next Cloverfield for some time; I enjoyed the first film, and 10 Cloverfield Lane was absolutely riveting. In fact, I’ve followed the most recent film since it was announced as ‘God Particle,’ and rumored to be JJ Abram’s ‘Half-Life’ movie. It’s a franchise that’s delivered some exciting doses of sci-fi, at a time when the genre’s lacked nuance, subtlety and lasting value.
So when Netflix promised ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ would drop the second the Super Bowl ended, I took them up on it without hesitation. I very literally clicked play the second the timer hit :00 and the New England Patriots crashed into the sun.
The movie was atrocious.
I’ve never seen a movie so enthusiastic about being terrible. It took its predecessor’s eclectic legacy, excreted on it, blended the mixture into a smoothie and barfed it onto the screen.
Between its shockingly bad quality, and novel release, the movie dominated Twitter conversations immediately after the Super Bowl. People quickly speculated that Paramount had dumped the film on Netflix for $50 million, after realizing the movie wouldn’t sustain a wide theater release. Was this the ‘foist’ of the century, as some claimed? To my surprise, probably not.
What was a certain box office bomb for Paramount was made into a brilliant seller for Netflix.
Media as a service has created a model entirely immune to the steep failure risk of mid-market production and has brilliantly delivered sellers of such services a supply of endless content.
Netflix never needed to sell The Cloverfield Paradox, they needed to sell a subscription; to sell a subscription, they needed to sell an experience. And a quintessential movie-going experience is driving to watch a hyped movie with friends…and realizing it’s terrible. The collective sigh of disgust that made millions discuss ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ was just achieved on a streaming service, over the internet. And Netflix just did it for a quarter the price.
For days, people will continue to discuss The Cloverfield Paradox, how much they hated it, and more importantly—everyone who doesn’t have Netflix will be left out of the conversation. It’s the same collective experience that had ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Daredevil’ selling Netflix subscriptions like hot cakes.
For a service built on selling experiences, this is a landmark achievement. It’s proof that Netflix’s service works; that Netflix can acquire any of dozens of projects and spin them into gold.
More interestingly, this should embolden Microsoft in their pursuit of Xbox GamePass, and their vision of games as a service. Middle-market games (non-Indie titles typically priced around $30) are increasing in popularity. AAA gaming releases are becoming increasingly risky to publishers in a crowded, oversaturated market. The games market is facing the same struggles as the film industry; Microsoft’s vision of ‘Netflix for Games’ could easily pay off, and their decision to put their own AAA releases on the service may be smarter than many realize.
From Netflix to Spotify, media as a service has dramatically changed the way we consume content. With ‘The Cloverfield Paradox,’ Netflix has proved the strength of their ecosystem. While I’m hoping we don’t see any more of the Cloverfield franchise until they get their act together, I’m genuinely interested in seeing more movies like ‘Paradox’ pushed from the silver screen to the online stream.