As recently as a decade ago, television was not a thing you streamed, but the stream—the live feed, the prime-time programming, the newest content. TV was not just the show, but the commercial breaks that interrupted it, the news that preceded it, and the machine itself too. Netflix punched a hole in that idea of television—first, turning the stream into an ocean of content, and second, letting you, the viewer, choose what you wanted to fish out of that ocean at any given time.
The competition between streamers, as with movie studios at the box office, leaves little room for risk. Netflix, which built its brand on rescuing troublesome, fan-favorite shows that conventional networks had abandoned, has been contracting in anticipation of Disney+’s debut—canceling adventurous, niche shows, including One Day at a Time, Tuca & Bertie, Chambers, and The OA, even as it found the hundreds of millions necessary for The Office. There’s still interest in funding shows that try to do something bigger and better—shows that take creatively rewarding risks. On the one hand, the strategy for most of the megacorporations in the streaming game is volume, which makes studios desperate to greenlight, apparently, anything. But when mega-corporations compete, risks tend to vanish.
That’s especially true of Disney+, a platform which (in stark contrast to Netflix) will be PG-13 “or softer.” Disney’s moving into the digital space on the coattails of its two major franchises and its rather analog film library: the animated classics that made the brand and defined the genre. Disney+ has the advantage of already being a vertically integrated brand that promotes total engagement in its content’s “magic” with parks, cruise ships, honeymoons, and even a neighborhood—it’s a lifelong experience, if you want it to be.
Days after the launch of Disney+, Netflix signed a multiyear partnership with Nickelodeon to begin expanding its own offering of children’s programming. The partnership will produce original animated films and television series based on existing Nickelodeon characters and all-new ideas, according to a statement from Netflix.
Netflix didn’t offer any details on which iconic Nickelodeon IP would be involved in the new programming, or what sort of new characters may be under development. Nor did it speak to the number of titles it expects the multi-year deal to produce or when the first shows or movies would arrive. Instead, the announcement was more focused on taking the wind out of Disney’s sails following its big (and sometimes glitchy) U.S. launch.
North of the border, Netflix has also been looking to hold onto customers through a different approach. Netflix signed a three-year deal to support the Toronto International Film Festival’s Canadian film-industry programs, which help foster local filmmaking talent, with a focus on creators from under-represented communities, including women and Indigenous people.
The streaming giant will direct the funds to TIFF’s Talent Accelerator program, which subsidizes access to the festival’s industry programming and events, and also to the fest’s Filmmaker Lab, a four-day annual workshop for emerging filmmakers. As well, there are plans for three events focused on professional development. They are hoping the financial commitment to Canadians will encourage them to support the company, as they support their filmmakers.