Last week was the debut of Narcos, a Goodfellas-inspired crime thriller that follows the exploits of the drug lord Pablo Escobar in Columbia. The show has earned some great reviews, and viewers didn't have to suffer through a killer cliffhanger following the season premiere. They could watch the entire first season in around ten hours because the series was direct to Netflix.
The format of the series, as well as its storytelling and overall quality, are indicative of one sure thing: Netflix has become much more than a streaming service, and can now be called one of the best production companies for television and film. Following the success of series like House of Cards, Bloodline, Daredevil and Orange is the New Black, and the pending release of films like Beasts of No Nation and The Ridiculous Six, there are many lessons that other studios can learn from Netflix's success.
One of these lessons is continuous storytelling. Many television series rely on exposition throughout their shows in order to draw in new viewers. However, the storytelling of Netflix's programs allow viewers to quickly move from episode to episode, making each show feel more like a ten to thirteen hour film. By cutting unnecessary exposition and story beats found in weekly television shows Netflix creates a more compelling storyline. For example, the realism found in a show like House of Cards is more evident when the series can be streamed in an immersive story format.
Another major aspect of Netflix's success is the lack of censorship. While prime-time and cable shows must fit within the constraints of a time block that includes ads, they often must also cut any content that would affect its rating. Netflix's format, which avoids ads and is less affected by many rules imposed by organizations such as the FTC, allows for more complete episodes and doesn't cut content. This works for a series like Daredevil, which is a part of the family-friendly Marvel universe but features more explicit violence and content that's necessary to tell its story faithfully.
Netflix also has an incredible ability to work with some of the best cast and crew working in the business. As one of the first productions of its kind, House of Cards starred Academy-Award winner Kevin Spacey and acclaimed actress Robin Wright in the lead roles and featured major Hollywood directing talents like David Fincher and Joel Schumacher. Additionally, Netflix works with major studios (like the aforementioned Marvel) and features incredible ensemble casts. But it's not all just big names. Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt give breakout roles to smaller (and up-and-coming) actors.
The success of Netflix's television has also paved the way for major motion pictures. This October will see the release of Beasts of No Nation, a film by acclaimed True Detective creator Cary Fukunagua starring the talented Idris Elba. Though it will receive Netflix distribution, Beasts of No Nation fits within the standards of most films, with screenings set for the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. In fact, the studio has enough confidence in the project that it will screen simultaneously in select theaters to gain award eligibility.
Beasts of No Nation is just the beginning; Netflix's upcoming films include the hopeful Adam Sandler career revival The Ridiculous Six, Ricky Gervais's political comedy Special Correspondents, the Brad Pitt war film War Machine and the upcoming sequels Pee-Wee's Big Holiday and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Blade.
The power of the Netflix approach is definite, and its success is defined by the quality of its products and the talent involved. The lessons that Netflix has taught, including attracting the best actors, utilizing binge storytelling and avoiding cutting content are lessons that can be taught to both the television and film industries. In the end, quality wins, and Netflix has made a strong case for why it's one of the best distributors of quality entertainment in the modern film and television world.