As CEO and co-founder of Netflix, I wanted to address some concerns that have come up recently. We don’t like to be in the news except for ordinary things like capriciously raising our prices, or for the daffy emails I used to send in the middle of the night announcing changes to our business model. The latest accusations — that we are trying to “destroy” cinema — are completely unfounded. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether in a theater, on a TV, or on a phone, our goal is the same: to provide inexpensive access to the entire range of Netflix movies.
Please note that this doesn’t only mean movies produced by Netflix. We also want people to see the movies that someone else produced but that we bought at a film festival and slapped our logo on. We want everyone to be able to watch the whole catalog of movies that say “Netflix” at the beginning of them.
You see, Netflix is run by people who love movies. This includes timeless classics like Beasts of No Nation and The Ridiculous Six, as well as hot new hits like Velvet Buzzsaw, which has already been watched by whatever large number of people we feel like announcing.
Would you believe that 40 million people have watched Velvet Buzzsaw? You would? Then that’s how many people have watched it.
Filmmakers have always yearned to bring their work to a wider audience. This has been true ever since the early days of cinema, in the 1970s. Movie theaters filled that need for a while, but it wasn’t until Netflix started mailing DVDs for people to watch on their square TVs or thirty-pound laptops that the filmmakers’ dreams really started to come true.
With the advent of streaming, of course, the dream was achieved. Now every person with internet access — nearly 56% of the world’s population! — can watch Alex Strangelove or The Polka King anytime they choose. Why should people who live in towns without movie theaters be denied the opportunity to see The Cloverfield Paradox or Bright?
We have tried to recreate the nostalgic “video store” experience. Our older customers will remember how it worked. You’d browse the shelves, and if you paused for more than two seconds in front of a particular movie, an employee would yell dialogue from that movie at you until you moved. And naturally, the films produced by Blockbuster or Hollywood Video were positioned at the front of the store, while the off-brand movies from obscure manufacturers like Paramount and Warner Bros. were in a pile out back on the loading dock. The Netflix experience is just like that, with the added benefit of the movies not being permanent or in alphabetical order.
I admit we raised eyebrows with our robust awards campaign for Roma. If we offended our established studio colleagues by trying to game the system and buy Oscars the way they’ve been doing for years, we apologize. We may have gotten overexcited when Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs received a combined total of 113 Oscar nominations (according to our accounting department). One of them was for “cinematography,” which we had never even heard of! (It means “cameraman.”) But we believe EVERYONE with tens of millions of dollars in discretionary income should be able to win Academy Awards by sending lavish coffee table books to voters. All American companies are entitled to a level playing field. We didn’t pay zero dollars in taxes last year just to be taken advantage of!
In closing, I want to reassure our customers that their satisfaction remains our top priority. We have over 100 million viewers in the U.S., sharing a total of nearly a thousand user names and passwords. If the day ever comes that you, the customer, can’t immediately find a Netflix-branded movie to suit your mood, that’s the day we’ll close up shop and stop making Netflix movies altogether. Until then, we’ll continue sharing our vast library of Netflix content while giving up-and-coming directors a shot at the big-time. A gentleman named Martin Scorsese will be making his Netflix debut later this year, and we’re confident his movie will break down the one remaining barrier between us and traditional Hollywood studios when it wins Best Picture despite not being very good.