It might still be viewed as the world's best streaming service, but Netflix is doing little to placate the growing discontent it's been met with over the last 12 months.
Okay, it's still the undisputed king of the streaming landscape. The global success of new TV shows, such as The Night Agent and Wednesday, plus the return of popular fan favorites like Stranger Things season 4, prove that Netflix continues to hold our attention, regardless of the problems it faces.
Even so, I can't help but feel the company's latest marketing stunts – one for The Witcher season 3, and one for Fubar, Arnold Schwarzenegger's first-ever TV show – are a bit tone deaf. Sure, they're fun tie-ins. But, at a time when Netflix has come under fire for numerous issues, they just don't sit right with me.
Let's start with the man many affectionately call 'Arnie'. Yesterday (May 22), Netflix announced that it had appointed the legendary Terminator and Predator star as its Chief Action Officer.
Let's be clear: Schwarzenegger hasn't actually taken on a new role for Netflix. It's merely a piece of clever marketing that carries a one-two punch.
First, it acts as a promotional vehicle – see, it's funny because 'Arnie' drives a tank in the promo video? Get it? Never mind… – for Fubar, the actor's inaugural TV series that's part-comedy, part-action spy thriller. Secondly (and lastly), it helps to promote some of the new Netflix movies and TV series coming our way in 2023, including the return of some of the best Netflix shows, such as The Witcher's third outing, and eagerly anticipated sequels like Extraction 2. All in all, it's a fairly fun promotional tie-in that'll likely raise a smile or result in a chuckle from casual observers.
As mentioned, though, Fubar isn't the only Netflix series that's benefitting from a smart piece of marketing. Athletic Brewing, a non-alcoholic craft beer company, has teamed up with Netflix to (ahem) craft Geralt's Gold, a limited-edition pale lager that's available to purchase before The Witcher season 3 debuts in late June.
Okay, so what's the problem? Promotional campaigns have become part of the cultural zeitgeist when it comes to movies, TV shows, and streaming, with studios and entertainment companies regularly marketing their productions to persuade audiences to watch them. Occasionally, they'll also collaborate with other companies, too, to create products that benefit both parties. That's been the case for decades, so why have Netflix's latest marketing gimmicks bent me out of shape?
Toss a coin and toast to destiny with our all-new @witchernetflix collab brew: Geralt’s Gold. It’s a limited-release, hoppy Helles inspired by Netflix’s hit show The Witcher. Stock up for the Season 3 premiere in June at the link below! https://t.co/ml51y1HD2K pic.twitter.com/1TPewWkeH6May 22, 2023
For one, it's the timing of it all. Currently, Netflix is one of the biggest studios whose movies and TV shows have been hit by the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. Many of its in-development shows, such as Stranger Things season 5, are on hiatus or can't enter full production until the WGA and Association of Motion Pictures of Television (AMPTP) come to an agreement over better working conditions for WGA members.
According to industry insiders, Netflix is one of the most prominent companies that's refusing to entertain the prospect of increasing writers' wages among other WGA demands. Subsequently, numerous Hollywood scribes (and other industry employees who support the strikes) have called on Netflix users to cancel their subscriptions in protest.
Then there's the growing furore over Netflix's continued cancellation of popular TV shows. Furious Lockwood and Co. fans ripped up their Netflix subscriptions in the wake of its canning, while others are desperately trying to rig the Netflix viewing figures system to save Shadow and Bone from a similar fate. Add in Netflix's forthcoming password crackdown plan, which will happen very soon, and users are clearly unhappy at having to stump up the cash for a subscription (potentially for the first time if they've been using someone else's account for years) if their favorite shows will inevitably be cancelled.
So while the stunts above are clever pieces of marketing, the 'Arnie' video and Witcher tie-in product don't sit right. Netflix talks about wanting to cut costs and save money, meaning it's unlikely to budge on its stance over increasing writers' pay. But then it goes and splurges money on promotional tie-ins like this. With WGA members and other streaming-based employees calling for fairer working conditions amid a cost of living crisis, I can't help but feel the money Netflix is burning could be better spent elsewhere.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.
Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.