As of a couple of weeks ago, the top management at Netflix was standing by their decision to stream “Cuties,” the bordering-on-child-porn film about prepubescent girls dancing in a provocative fashion to mimic YouTube “influencers.” This was being done despite the large amount of pushback they were receiving on social media and in more conservative press outlets. So how has that choice been working out for them? Not well according to recent reports.
Cancellations of Netflix accounts have reportedly been rising that what should be alarming levels and new subscriptions fell off dramatically from previous months. Will people voting with their wallets produce a change of heart at Netflix HQ?
“Cuties” turned out to be ugly for Netflix.
The streaming service has watched subscription cancellations skyrocket by 800% after the French coming-of-age film triggered a boycott in early September, analyses show. Within two days of the movie’s premiere, #CancelNetflix became the top trending topic on Twitter and a petition on Change.org garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Netflix’s chief financial officer Spence Neumann didn’t mention “Cuties” in a third-quarter earnings call this week, instead focusing on the first half of the year, when coronavirus lockdowns nationwide drove subscriptions.
An 800% increase in cancellations is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when you’re trying to explain it to your investors. The number of new subscribers matched against account cancellations should provide another significant hint. The data analytics firms Antenna and YipitData produced a report showing that in the first two quarters of the year, the streaming service signed on 16 million and ten million new subscribers respectively. But in the quarter ending on September 30th, after the Cuties news went viral, they had only 2.2 million new subscribers. (There is no data indicating how many of those were child porn aficionados.)
Meanwhile, Netflix lost five times as many subscribers in the first two weeks of September as they did in the entire month of July. A subscription-based company like Netflix can only sustain those sorts of numbers for just so long before they begin to crater. It’s also worth remembering that there was a time when Netflix was the only game in town when it came to streaming movies and television shows. But now they have a ton of competition including the increasingly dominant Amazon Prime. Viewers have other options to explore if they find the Netflix offerings too offensive for their tastes.
The irony here is that we are currently living in a time where Netflix should be doing some of their best business ever. All across the world, people are still locked down, movie theaters are largely closed, and people are searching for other COVID-friendly entertainment options. Netflix managed to profit handsomely from this situation in the spring and summer, but now their numbers are seriously tanking while outfits like Amazon are still going full throttle. Can this really be written off as a coincidence?
I’m not a supporter of cancel culture or boycotts, so at no point have I tried to whip people up into a fervor or drive them to drop Netflix. But everyone has to make up their own mind as to how much they’re willing to put up with. It sounds to me like there are enough people out there who object to the sexualization of young children and Netflix’s condescending attitude toward those who complained that it’s showing up in their bottom line. If so, they have nobody to blame but themselves.