May 6, 2024 - Economy

Netflix dives into live programming to drive engagement

Illustration of the word LIVE in the style of the Netflix logo

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Netflix is plowing into live programming.

Why it matters: The company is reaching for new sources of engagement to grow revenue as its focus moves away from subscriber count.

Driving the news: Come Friday, Netflix will have aired a live comedy show every night for seven consecutive days — making it one of the longest stretches of time for the format on the platform.

  • "Everybody's in LA," a spin on the traditional late night talk show and hosted by SNL alum John Mulaney, debuted last week and runs through the end of this week.
  • Katt Williams' "Woke Foke" standup special was live-streamed Saturday.
  • "The Roast of Tom Brady" was broadcast Sunday night.

What they're saying: "To sustain healthy growth long term, we must continue to improve the variety and quality of our entertainment — with more, great TV shows and movies, a stronger slate of games and must-watch live programming," the company said in its latest earnings report.

  • Comedy, sports, competition shows and music were cited as examples of live events the streamer has interest in showing.
  • "The Roast of Tom Brady" brought in audiences interested in sports and comedy content. And among what Netflix considers "must-watch" is the upcoming boxing matching between 27-year-old Jake Paul and 57-year-old Mike Tyson.
  • In January, Netflix struck a 10-year deal with the WWE to air one of TV's longest-running weekly shows, "Monday Night Raw."

The intrigue: Netflix's live strategy isn't just about video content — it's about in-person experiences too.

  • All three comedy programs that aired over the weekend were tied to the Netflix Is A Joke comedy festival in Los Angeles, and all three were filmed in front of live audiences.
  • Live Nation, notably, is helping produce these shows and manage attendance, and the partnership could suggest an explosion of livestreamed concerts in the future.

My thought bubble: In its quest to kill linear TV and grab the audience for itself, Netflix has to take on some of the legacy format's features, including creating tentpole must-see live content.

  • Compelling live content has other benefits too, including generating conversation fodder for social media posts that drive even more attention and FOMO toward shows and platforms.
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