Netflix Enters VR as Its Original Programming War Chest Gets Bigger


Netflix Beasts of No Nation

Netflix made its name by helping everyday folks see every movie and TV show they wanted in the comfort of their own homes. Now that there are so many other ways to access content, Netflix is putting a whole lot of effort into creating new high-quality content that nobody else can get their hands on.

Part of that effort has manifested with a partnership with Oculus VR. The content is built to be watched on Samsung’s Gear VR headsets via a new app that allows a user to create “a virtual living room for the viewer to watch in,” USA Today reports. The user then navigates within the app to select what to view.

Other streaming services are also getting into the VR biz. “Providing viewers with dynamic environments of their choice and themed around their favorite shows provides a whole new level of engagement, which together with our cinematic VR experiences makes Hulu an exciting VR destination,” Hulu vice president of device platforms Julian Eggebrecht wrote on Hulu’s blog.

Hulu VR

New research from Ampere Analysis shows that Netflix’s foray into original programming could grow so big that it ends up spending $6 billion annually on it by 2020, reports. That expenditure will come at the same time Netflix starts spending less on content acquisitions. Netflix should have 130 million subscribers across the globe by 2020, well above Amazon’s expected subscriber base of 50 million.

According to Bloomberg, Netflix is also putting more effort into shooting its own programming rather than farming the task out to outside production companies. It is “considering filming Chelsea Handler’s new talk show at a space it leased last month in Hollywood,” which is where “a pair of comedy series announced earlier this year—Flaked, starring Will Arnett, and Lady Dynamite, featuring Maria Bamford” —will be shot as well.

“Obviously there’s benefits if we produce a show,” Netflix Chief Financial Officer David Wells said on the company’s most recent earnings call in July, Bloomberg notes. “If there’s great reach across the world and we can distribute that show, it will be consumed and enjoyed across the world. So there’s tremendous benefits there in terms of just the scale of distributing it.”

Netflix also isn’t just putting its money into churning out new series to go with its slew of hits including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It is also investing in full-length films.

Netflix Orange is the New Black

Netflix will soon release its first full-length film, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba. It will be available to stream on October 16, but residents of the UK will be able to go see it in the actual theaters starting October 9, when it premieres at the BFI London Film Festival. This is a big shift for Netflix to have a film that will appear in actual theaters rather than simply streaming it. The service is also producing Christopher Guest’s next film about the world of professional mascots and Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous Six, but those aren’t scheduled for actual theater releases.

Amazon, of course, isn’t backing down and is producing its own full-length features as well. Its first will be Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, which is set for release later this year. According to, Amazon’s next full-length effort will be a “dark comedy starring Kristen Wiig” with the working title Desired Moments.

Both companies, of course, have plenty of customer data to help them figure out what content will work best.

Netflix VR

New research from Netflix shows precisely when its audience members have gotten hooked on its programs. “It turns out that when commercial breaks and appointment viewing are stripped away and consumers can watch an entire season as they choose, you can see fandom emerge,” according to a press release. “That is, 70% of viewers who watched the hooked episode went on to complete season one or more poetically, when members were hooked and there was no turning back.” The pilot episode is never the episode that hooks viewers in the shows Netflix studied, but Breaking Bad had viewers engaged by the second episode and Dexter and Orange is the New Black had people roped in at episode three. Mad Men took till episode six.

It remains to be seen how many episodes it will take for viewers to hook into the new Netflix series Narcos but a native ad for it entitled “Cocainenomics” running on the Wall Street Journal’s site is addictive all on its own. The video looks into the business side of the cocaine trade. The series debuted in late August and has been a huge hit already for the streaming service.