In 2013, Netflix ($NFLX) scored an Emmy for House of Cards, ushering in a new post-HBO era of legitimacy for premium television services. In 2015, it picked up an Emmy for Orange is the New Black. 2016 saw 4 Emmys, and 2017 scored Netflix another 3. And in 2018, Netflix beat out HBO with seven statues. 

But as the streaming wars take shape in 2019, there are grumblings about a decline in programming quality from Netflix as it pushes out wave after wave of original programming intended to retain subscribers who have more options than ever.

All in all, it was estimated that Netflix will release more than 700 original shows and movies.

The company appears to be keeping pace on this, too.

Since May 2019, Netflix has added 179 originals to its American streaming service alone, according to its own website as tracked over time. That's an average of 30 new shows per month, or just about one per day.

But this isn't necessarily a good thing.

A New York Post column from Jennifer Wright titled "Why too much original content from Netflix is bad for subscribers" puts this perhaps most succinctly:

"For every “Master of None,” there’s a “Friends From College.” For every “Grace and Frankie,” there’s a “Disjointed.” For every “Jessica Jones,” there’s an “Iron Fist.” And let’s not even talk about “Insatiable,” which, despite a 12 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is cruising into a second season."

Even Saturday Night Live got in on the joke in a mock Netflix commercial announcing that the network was going to "make every show in the world" in 2019. It went on to depict Netflix execs greenlighting any show pitched, shouting, "Yes! Here's money! Go make it!" and announcing that the network makes thousands of shows, "12 of which you watch."

The hedge is pretty clear: make as much content as possible and hope some of it sticks.

Hiring at Netflix appears to support the notion, too. While overall hiring is somewhat static and even down of late, hiring for the company's "Studio Finance" division has shot to the second-most in-demand group at the company.

In mid-2018, the Studio Finance group didn't exist. But at the end of that year, the new group began a hiring spree that has since outpaced hiring for everything but the "Content Legal" group, which also showed up at the end of 2018.

Given the focus Netflix is putting on the two groups, the company's strategy becomes pretty clear: acquire, clear, and fund as much original content as possible.

Given the focus Netflix is putting on the two groups, the company's strategy becomes pretty clear: acquire, clear, and fund as much original content as possible.

In 2017, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced that the company would spend $7 billion on original content in 2018. That number was soon upped to as much as $13 billion in a Goldman Sachs' estimate.

That's more than any Hollywood studio spent in 2018, Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy) was poached from ABC in a massive deal. Barack and Michelle Obama even signed multi-year agreements to produce films and TV shows for Netflix. Glee creator Ryan Murphy signed a $300 million deal. 

The race for original content comes as competition from Disney, Apple, and HBO floods the streaming market with programming alternatives. Disney Plus launched last month, and early figures show that more than 10 million people have signed up for the service to watch originals like The Mandalorian.

Of course, that's a far cry from Netflix's 150 million subscribers, the race for original content is clearly on. And with that comes not just a storm of marketing from various streaming services, but also a lot of content that isn't quite up to par. As to whether or not the slew of mediocre shows will create a competitive opening for the likes of Apple and Disney, that has yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, Netflix is keeping current subscribers busy with so many shows that it will take "12 human lifetimes" to watch all of it. All while keeping track of their data, viewing habits, and genre preferences to pump out as much eye-popping content to cajole them to remain a subscriber. And it's working, for now. But if they keep losing shows like American Vandal and GLOW and Bojack Horseman, they might eventually run into a problem soon.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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