The Evolution of the Netflix Production Model through the Birth of a Global Television Service

Conference: The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film (MediAsia2022)
Title: The Evolution of the Netflix Production Model through the Birth of a Global Television Service
Stream: Media Studies
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
William Kunz, University of Washington Tacoma, United States


When Netflix expanded from 60 countries to 190 countries in 2016, co-founded Reed Hastings called it the “birth of a new global internet TV network.” The worldwide reach of the streaming giant is clear. Netflix increased from 12.3 million memberships on December 31, 2009, to 203.7 million streaming memberships on December 31, 2020, with 129.7 million outside the United States and Canada. That growth has transformed global television, but it also raises questions central to the political economy of the media: ownership of cultural texts and the role of the state. This study examines the business model behind Netflix originals, 2013-2021, focusing on English-language programs 40 minutes or more in length. Netflix is investing in originals produced in other languages, with Squid Game a prominent example, but English-language originals remain the foundation of the service. There are two key findings in this study. First, there was a dramatic increase in the share of original television series in which Netflix owns the copyright, from zero in the sample in 2013-2015, to an average of just under 60% in 2019-2021. That creates a focus on costs and an incentive to produce in locations with production incentives, including tax credits. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, 96.0% of Netflix originals in the sample acknowledged production incentives, with the benefits of most going back to the program producer, Netflix Inc. What was also significant was the shift in programs produced in the United States to those in incentive-rich locations around the world, including Canada.

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