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How Netflix has changed the global entertainment industry

Since Netflix began its worldwide expansion in 2016, the streaming service has rewritten the playbook for global entertainment — from TV to film, and, more recently, video games.

Benedict Wong and Liam Cunningham in 3 Body Problem.Ed Miller/Netflix
  • Netflix continues to rewrite the playbook for global entertainment.
  • It's solidified its position as the dominant streamer.
  • It now faces new challenges as it enters the advertising and gaming markets.
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Hollywood used to export most global hit series and movies. Now, thanks to Netflix's investments in international TV and film, programs like South Korea's "Squid Game" and France's "Lupin" have found massive audiences around the world. And Netflix's English-language originals, such as Shonda Rhimes' "Bridgerton," Ryan Murphy's "Dahmer," and Tim Burton's "Wednesday," have broken the streamer's internal streaming viewership records.

Netflix has been riding high after the 2023 writers' and actors' strikes shut down Hollywood production and other streamers retrenched to stem losses. After a dip in 2022, its stock soared in 2023 and it's making headway with its crackdown on password sharing and its ad-supported subscription tier. Cash-hungry rivals have returned to licensing their shows back to Netflix, which could help make the streamer even more dominant.

Netflix's impact on the global TV industry remains undeniable, even as it now faces fresh questions about its audience growth potential, ability to compete for ad dollars, and opportunity to capture younger viewers.

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To thrive on an international stage, Netflix sought both US mass-market programming like "Stranger Things" as well as local content that could win over viewers in specific markets (and produce breakout hits).

The strategy helped the streaming service grow its customer base to more than 260 million global subscribers. Its momentum also reinvigorated production in places like Germany, Mexico, and India.

More recently, it along with other streamers has sought broadcast network-type shows that will grab broad viewership, plus fewer, lower-budget movies under new film chief Dan Lin. It's also dipped into live programming like sports and comedy.

More on Netflix's changing content direction:

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After breaking all of Hollywood's rules and disrupting everything about the entertainment industry, Netflix — since its first-ever subscriber loss — has been breaking its own rules, reversing its stances on password sharing and advertising.

It also shook up its leadership in 2023, elevating Greg Peters to co-CEO, reflecting its shift to new revenue streams, alongside Ted Sarandos as cofounder Reed Hastings moved to executive chair.

Meanwhile, TV head Bela Bajaria was named chief content officer, with film reporting to her.

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An elite team of interdisciplinary execs helps make Netflix's biggest decisions. Known internally as the "Lstaff" — the "L" stands for leadership — the 22-member group sits between the company's officers and its larger executive corps of vice presidents and above, who are called the "Estaff."

More on Netflix's corporate structure:

Netflix's restructuring hasn't been without obstacles. It's laid off hundreds of staffers over the past couple of years as the broader media and entertainment space grapples with a bear market.

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Still, the company's growth has generally made it a desirable place to work in recent years, despite some tests its corporate culture has faced. While hiring has slowed, it's still adding employees to maintain its lead over other paid streamers and fuel its global expansion.

More on Netflix's business model and company culture:

Netflix faces more competition from TV viewers than ever from traditional media companies like Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery and tech players Apple, Amazon, and YouTube, most of which are further along in selling ads and offering live sports programming.

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The competition is pushing the streaming giant to continue evolving. Netflix introduced a cheaper, ad-supported tier to combat slowing subscriber growth. It's also building video games and selling merchandise and experiences tied to series like "Squid Game" and "Bridgerton."

Some creators worried that Netflix would take fewer risks on programming to please advertisers, while the service has been slow to meet the scale demanded by advertisers.

As it did with movies and TV shows, Netflix is ramping up advertising and games slowly. It's commissioning and licensing mobile games, some of which are based on existing franchises like "Stranger Things" and acquired companies to kickstart the business.

More on Netflix's advertising and gaming ambitions:

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Elaine Low contributed to an earlier version of this post.

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