With Chris Rock particular, Netflix is embracing dwell TV. Here’s why

For years, Netflix executives have been the largest cheerleaders of TV bingeing.

The Los Gatos streamer pioneered releasing all episodes of a present all of sudden, inflicting folks to take a seat in entrance of their screens for hours to eat full seasons in a single weekend.

But on March 4, the Hollywood disruptor begins its foray right into a format as previous as TV broadcasting itself — dwell programming — with a extremely anticipated comedy particular from Chris Rock.

Rock will change into the primary artist to carry out a dwell comedy particular on Netflix along with his present, titled “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.” The roughly hourlong particular may draw giant audiences to the streaming service, as followers anticipate he’ll talk about Will Smith slapping him on the Academy Awards final yr. There may even be a pre-show and after-show that includes different entertainers, together with Ronny Chieng, David Spade and Dana Carvey.

Netflix’s binge-and-burn mannequin helped make it the largest subscription streaming service, with about 231 million paying members globally.

But now that the market has change into flooded with rival streamers, merely having a big library of exhibits and a slate of widespread authentic programming obtainable on-demand is now not sufficient. Netflix is in search of methods to show its exhibits into must-see occasions.

Under stress to manage prices whereas nonetheless rising their companies, Netflix and different streaming providers have canceled exhibits and laid off employees. At the identical time, Netflix has tried out new sorts of content material (together with video games) and borrowed from a few of the previous methods of the TV enterprise, comparable to promoting.

Getting into dwell exhibits — an effort to encourage old-school appointment viewing — is a part of that effort to fend off competitors and enhance viewership.

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“Netflix is looking for ways to be competitive and to show consumers why they need to stay subscribed to Netflix, because now there’s so many choices,” stated Brett Sappington, vp at Culver City-based market analysis agency Interpret, which advises corporations in media, tech and leisure. “Netflix now has to prove every month why it’s still valuable.”

Netflix declined to remark.

By dipping its toe into the dwell TV house, Netflix is discovering what conventional broadcasters and cable have understood for generations. Events just like the Super Bowl or World Series are widespread amongst viewers as a result of it’s an expertise everybody can speak about in actual time.

And although scores for awards exhibits just like the Oscars have fallen over time, they nonetheless draw thousands and thousands of viewers and spark conversations within the tradition as a result of, as final yr’s awards present proved, something can occur in a dwell setting. That may equally draw folks to tune in to the Chris Rock particular, which is occurring practically a yr after the infamous Oscars slap incident.

“Live is able to draw consumers in a way that on-demand just doesn’t in volume,” Sappington stated. “If you can only see it on Netflix, then everyone who saw it has to go to Netflix to make sure that they are part of it. They don’t want to miss out.”

Last yr, Netflix hosted an in-person comedy competition with 336 comedians performing in Los Angeles, promoting greater than 260,000 tickets. During one of many performances, comic Dave Chappelle was tackled by a person carrying a duplicate handgun on the Hollywood Bowl. Rock later joked onstage, “Was that Will Smith?” Netflix has additionally signed a deal to stream the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Netflix beginning in 2024.

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“There’s nothing particularly novel about live television, but we are dabbling in it, starting with our Chris Rock live concert, to try to create the excitement around live for those things that are uniquely more exciting to be live,” stated Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-CEO, in an earnings discussion in January.

Other streaming services have already bet on live events. Paramount+ simulcast the Grammys with CBS in February, while Disney+ aired a live Elton John concert from Dodger Stadium last year.

One major area of interest for streamers is sports, long seen as the final frontier for online video — and one of the last things keeping the traditional cable bundle intact.

Amazon pays $1 billion annually to stream 15 Thursday-night NFL football games, while Apple TV+ has agreements with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to carry games.

Netflix has resisted the urge to dive into live sports, a business that comes with astronomical costs because of the license fees popular leagues are able to extract for broadcast and streaming rights.

“We’ve not been able to figure out how to deliver profits in renting big league sports in our subscription model,” Sarandos said in January.

Instead, Netflix is going through its tried-and-true route of stand-up comedy, a category it has long invested in and promoted.

Netflix’s comedy specials have sometimes spurred controversy, including within the company. Netflix employees walked out in protest over how the company handled their concerns over transphobic speech in Chappelle’s “The Closer” special. Ricky Gervais’ comedy special “SuperNature” was criticized by GLAAD for “graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes.”

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But folks nonetheless tuned in — “The Closer” ranked within the prime 10 Netflix exhibits in 4 international locations for no less than one week, whereas “SuperNature” reached that degree in 13 international locations, in keeping with Netflix knowledge. The firm up to date its tradition memo final yr to say its library might embody content material that runs counter to some workers’ private values. “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you,” the memo stated.

Saturday’s occasion is Netflix’s newest evolution within the stand-up comedy house, recognized to be a private ardour for Sarandos. It’s Rock’s second comedy particular on Netflix, coming after 2018’s “Chris Rock: Tamborine.” Netflix paid Rock $40 million for the 2 specials, in keeping with the Hollywood Reporter. Netflix declined to verify the price of the deal.

Michael Pachter, a managing director of fairness analysis at Wedbush Securities, questioned whether or not viewership for Rock’s particular will justify the fee.

“There’s no way they are getting a $20-million return on an hour of comedy,” Pachter stated.

Over the final couple years, Netflix has been constructing out its know-how for dwell programming however “hadn’t really tested it out,” Sarandos stated at an buyers convention in December. Sarandos has instructed that this might result in livestreams of different Netflix occasions, comparable to episodes revealing the winners of a contest present or a solid reunion from a actuality program.