The streaming service has added over 16 million new subscribers during COVID lockdowns, so why haven’t they returned the favour with lowered prices?
“In our 20+ year history, we have never seen a future more uncertain or unsettling. The coronavirus has reached every corner of the world and, in the absence of a widespread treatment or vaccine, no one knows how or when this terrible crisis will end.”
This was Netflix’s heartfelt sentiment in their response to the COVID situation earlier this year. With millions stuck at home and the absolute media firestorm around The Tiger King, COVID actually proved to be an extremely profitable event for Netflix, many taking comfort in the reams of entertainment options listed on the website and app. As of April there were over 16 million new sign-ups.
However, COVID saw many other businesses taking a very different approach to their consumers. Exercise companies and gyms either waived their fees or lowered their prices, Scholastic offered free online activities for children, and many major newspapers have taken down their subscriber walls and made content free for all. Even some adult entertainment websites waived their fees. Netflix, though, felt it unnecessary.
To the companies credit, they have set up a fund for their own workers whose jobs have been affected this year. Like every other film production company, Netflix’s own content creation has been completely halted, with no ‘Netflix Originals’ being filmed. Though, being such an internationally successful streaming service and with such an incredible sign-up increase, it is fair to say the company will survive into next year.
Netflix does not have a particularly attractive history in regards to generosity. The company was widely criticised in 2018 for their complete avoidance of any federal and state tax payments despite recording its largest profit that year. They have also gotten into public heat for their alleged promotion of potentially life threatening pseudoscience in shows like Goop and The Magic Pill.
There have been both internal and external calls for Netflix to lower their prices, however this is mainly due to the fact they now have to compete with a plethora of other streaming services, and not out of regard for those who many not be able to afford the luxury. The issue is just that; people do not see Netflix as a luxury. The company itself certainly doesn’t. Yet anyone who has lived in the real world will know the meagre earnings many have to survive on, whether they be international students, single parents or those from disadvantaged communities and homes. To these people, streaming services are unattainable.
There have been many examples during this year of the inherent bond between humans, the compassion we feel inside when another is suffering. COVID has also exposed many questions in regards to the future of capitalism regarding what can be deemed ‘essential’ and what can be dismissed, the ability of almost everyone to work at home, and the disgusting comfort of the Uber-rich even in times of global crisis. It would be nice to see a bit of practical empathy from a major media presence, not just a well-written statement of concern.
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