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Netflix has faced three straight quarters of declining US subscriber growth, most recently missing its forecast for Q4 when it added 423,000 domestic subscriptions. International growth continues to exceed expectations, but some analysts say this is a sign that the streaming king may be reaching the ceiling for stateside subscriptions — and that’s before the launch of Peacock and HBO Max.
In an effort to win over some of those Americans without a subscription, Netflix made one of its most high-profile movies available to everyone, for free — and more could be on the way. On Tuesday, Netflix made its 2018 release “To All The Boys I've Loved Before” available to watch on its platform via a special link for the US and some other territories — the day before the sequel to the wildly popular teen rom-com landed on the service. On the free-streaming landing page, visitors have two chances to sign up for Netflix. After viewing the movie, there’s another message as the credits roll, imploring them to join now to watch “everything on Netflix that everyone’s talking about.”
Netflix’s strategy seizes a cultural moment born from its exclusive programming. According to the company’s selectively released viewership numbers, 80 million people watched “To All The Boys I've Loved Before” shortly after its premiere with the caveat that it’s unclear what “watch” means by Netflix standards. Whatever those stats, the film was also a social-media sensation, skyrocketing the Instagram followings of its stars: Lana Condor's follower count jumped from about 100,000 to 5.5 million, while Noah Centineo's increased from 800,000 to 13.4 million.
Netflix hopes to cash in on that buzz with “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” which also presents a perfect opportunity to hone in young people who don’t have access to a Netflix account. It sounds like a perfect conversion funnel: Watch the original movie, love it, convince your parents to finally sign up for Netflix, then watch the sequel and become part of the conversation.
This isn’t the first time that Netflix tried the freebie route; last fall, it made season 3, episode 1 of “The Crown” available for UK viewers. It’s not one that it would treat casually — content is its most valuable asset — but there’s a long history of getting buyers hooked on a free sample. Yes, they’ll give you a taste of heartthrob Centineo, but the full experience will come at a cost. It’s a move that wouldn’t have worked, say, for “The Irishman” — the latest film, for free, from a cultural touchstone like Martin Scorsese would have interested plenty of people, but what would then entice those people to sign up?
1. “#blackAF” Season 1 available April 17
Why Should I Watch? “#blackAF” marks the first Netflix original series from Kenya Barris after the “black-ish” and “grown-ish” and “mixed-ish” creator signed his $100 million overall deal with the streamer, and to mark the occasion, he’s putting himself in front of the camera. Co-starring with Rashida Jones, Barris plays a fictionalized version of himself: a very successful screenwriter and producer who’s also trying to be a good-ish husband to his wife, Joya Jones and adequate-ish father to their six children. If any of that sounds familiar, it should. “#blackAF” makes no bones about its similarities to Barris’ breakout ABC sitcom, recasting Anthony Anderson with the writer/creator he was always representing, and adding more F-bombs, drug use, and other adult themes to match the unrestricted nature of Netflix. Throw in a shooting style akin to “Modern Family” and “#blackAF” is the family comedy hybrid aimed at parents looking to keep it a bit more real.
Bonus Reason: The Season 1 finale features a star-studded lineup of guests, including Tyler Perry, Ava DuVernay, and Lena Waithe — all playing themselves. If the names alone aren’t enough reason to watch, the episode focuses on how black writers and directors gauge reactions from audiences, critics, and the subsets of each. Who decides what movies are good? Kenya’s quest to find out should spur plenty of discussion online and off.2. “Middleditch & Schwartz” available April 21
Why Should I Watch? The names themselves should be the first hook. Ben Schwartz of “Parks and Recreation,” “House of Lies,” and now, I guess, “Sonic the Hedgehog” fame and Thomas Middleditch from “Silicon Valley,” “Zombieland: Double Tap,” and, lest we forget, “You’re the Worst” are longtime improvisers who traveled the country performing long-form improv together you know, back when you could still do that. Their completely unplanned, unwritten, and unrehearsed shows were sparked by a quick conversation with an audience member, before the two comedians launched into hourlong improv scenes. Now, with the team’s tour suspended, three of those shows are coming to Netflix. Enjoy!
Bonus Reason: While, yes, you could spend your quarantine time watching this duo’s more high-profile projects, but a why spend $20 on “Sonic the Hedgehog” when Schwartz’s talents are limited to his voice? b even though the ending of “Silicon Valley” is pretty solid, can the sixth season of anything compare to a brand new experience pulled straight from Middleditch’s brain? c and, finally, you have plenty of time. Just watch...
SPOILER ALERT: If you are among the few who haven’t actually watched Netflix’s Tiger King docuseries, this review contains a lot of details about what goes down in the sad big cat saga.
With Netflix poised in the coming days to cash in and crank the base up a notch with more Tiger King, it's time to come out and say it: I hate the Red State porn that is the crash and burn of Joe Exotic
The initial seven episodes of this septic and shallow patchwork of trademark infringement, sex, guns, labor exploitation, song, drugs, mullets, betrayal, animal activism, revenge, and a lot of big cats may be much binged over these weeks of coronavirus lockdown, but that doesn't mean it's actually worth watching.
Now, I get it, I sound like I'm just a dour critic who hates anything that isn't prestige premium cable or aspirational. C'mon man, you want to say, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is just so unbelievable, I can't look away.
I respectfully disagree, and in fact, propose Tiger King isn't just bad, but dangerous in a divided America persistently looking to reduce the other side to caricature.
In a presently ailing nation where TV is more voluminous and vital than ever, the truth is the March 20 launched Tiger King is a clawed white trash misery index. Gawking at some clearly fragile and damaged people like would-be reality TV star Exotic and their below the Mason-Dixon line antics, the series subsequently provides a cultural circus for those smug bicoastals under stay at home orders and screaming to rise up in moral superiority.
Essentially, the tale of big cat collector, self-styled Oklahoma zoo proprietor and 2016 Presidential candidate Exotic AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage and his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to have rival Carole Baskin knocked off by a hitman hired for $3,000, Tiger King is in that context more a zero-sum game, literally and figuratively, than hitting the zeitgeist.
Obviously, Netflix are pretty damn good at gauging and dragging the public mood over the years, as the likes of the then phenomenon of 2015's Making A Murderer or 2018’s Wild Wild Country prove. Yet, for all the attention it has drawn, this unfocused murder for hire exploration of sorts emerges as a bastard child of Cops, a million Dateline segments from the 1990s and Fox’s short-lived Murder in Small Town X reality show from 2001.
Not exactly the prestige product that the home of Roma, The Irishman and American Factory likes to brag about at award shows. Then again, with the knowledge that the Romans sold out the Colosseum every night feeding Christians to the lions, the bottom line based House of Hastings surely loves the subscription sign up that the currently incarcerated Maldonado-Passage and the accompanying motley gaggle of...