Netflix hasn't exactly been getting a lot of good news lately. Its two biggest shows are leaving by the end of next year, and for the first time ever, more U.S. subscribers quit the service than joined. Still, the company is in a spending mood.

That explains the deal announced last week that has Netflix handing a pile of cash, $200 million to be precise, to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators and producers of Game of Thrones.

But will it be worth it?

Netflix is clearly betting that the duo can recreate the magic they've made at HBO for years, while also being increasingly dependent on original content to fill the gap left by shows that are rapidly defecting to its competition.

New streaming services from HBO, Disney, NBC Universal, and even Apple are making it harder for Netflix to keep both content and viewers. Those first three streaming options come from content producers with large libraries of shows and films to entice viewers, while Apple has been busy locking in talent like Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and even Oprah.

In fact, the Hollywood Reporter says that both Disney and Amazon were in contention to land a deal with Benioff and Weiss until Netflix topped those offers.

The company has already made deals with proven talent like Shonda Rhimes, the creator and show runner of Grey's Anatomy, and is expected to spend close to $15 billion to license or produce content this year, up almost 25 percent compared to last year. 

Really, Netflix doesn't have a choice other than to try to continue locking up high-profile talent that can deliver on the type of content that will keep existing subscribers from jumping ship and hopefully attract new viewers.

While Netflix has certainly shown that it can produce high-quality shows, it's hard to compete with well-known productions like Friends, The Office, Star Wars, and Disney's library of classic animated films. 

In an interesting twist, Benioff and Weiss are committed to write and produce three Star Wars films for Disney, meaning it may be a while before Netflix even sees any content produced under the deal.

Which is almost a recurring problem for the studio. Rhimes signed a $150 million contract two years ago but has yet to actually release any of the eight projects she is associated with. The same is true for Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee, who signed a $300 million deal to produce original content that has so far yielded only one project with a release date.

That means that Netflix is spending a lot of money on names that could end up as big wins or major flops. Just because Benioff and Weiss ran the wildly popular Game of Thrones franchise doesn't mean that same success will automatically translate to Netflix. 

That's especially true considering the duo has been criticized for later seasons of Game of Thrones, when they were no longer working from George R.R. Martin's books.

Netflix is clearly going to continue to make this type of deal, if for no other reason than to lock in as much talent as it can--not just for its own platform, but to prevent rivals from scooping it up.

Since the company's success is dependent on revenue from monthly subscriptions, the bigger question is whether it will translate into the viewers Netflix needs in order to remain on top. 

Either way, the battle between Netflix and its competitors is shaping up to be epic.

Published on: Aug 12, 2019
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