In July, HBO series “Insecure,” “Ballers,” “Band of Brothers,” “Six Feet Under,” and “The Pacific” (and “True Detective” outside of the U.S.) copy-and-pasted their way onto Netflix. The first-of-its-kind move between the longtime rivals was a success, HBO chief Casey Bloys said at Wednesday’s Code Conference — and not just in terms of a licensing fee.
“What’s been nice about it is, without doing a thing on Max, the viewership of… ‘Ballers’ and ‘Insecure’ [on Max] really saw a spike when it was on Netflix,” Bloys said. “You’re introducing it to more people, it’s marketing.”
It’s becoming a more and more common marketing practice. Rerun episodes of USA Network series “Suits” were on Peacock for years, and they did fine — for USA Network reruns on Peacock. But when NBCUniversal licensed the nine-season (2011-2019) legal dramedy to Netflix in June, the bar (pun intended) was raised.
As of Thursday, “Suits,” a series that hasn’t aired a new episode in four years, topped Nielsen’s streaming chart for each of its 11 straight (full) weeks of availability, tying Netflix original “Ozark” for the most-ever weeks at no. 1. The big difference here, however, is that “Suits” did it in consecutive weeks — “Ozark’s” first-place finishes were spread out across its seasons.
In its Peacock-only days, “Suits” had been statistically irrelevant to the industry. The sudden surge is not all Netflix, of course — except for the fact that it pretty much is. Nielsen does not separate Peacock viewership from Netflix’s, but suffice it to say the vast majority is coming from the vastly larger platform. As of June 30, Netflix had 238.4 million global paid subscribers; Peacock had 24 million.
To-date, “Suits” has appeared on Netflix’s Global Top 10 series (English) four times; it has appeared 11 times on the U.S. Top 10. Like the Bloys case study, Netflix’s revitalization of “Suits” has led to an increase in the series’ viewership on Peacock, a person with knowledge of NBCU streaming platform’s internal metrics told IndieWire.
While “Suits” Season 1 has been the huge hit on Netflix (it makes sense, that’s how sample viewing works) Season 9 has seen a disproportional lift on Peacock. There’s a logical explanation: Peacock is the only platform with the ninth and final season of “Suits” available to subscribers. Netflix only has Seasons 1-8 in the current window.
The Netflix “Suits” phenomenon has also increased Peacock viewership for “Suits” spinoff “Pearson,” our source said, which is currently streaming only on Peacock. On the final day of August, Peacock sent out a press release just to inform everyone (in hopes we’d inform readers) that “Pearson” was there.
“Pearson,” which focused on Gina Torres’ “Suits” character Jessica Pearson, lasted for all of 10 episodes on USA in 2019. No one was otherwise looking for it in 2023.
Some added eyeballs and extra publicity is not all that NBCU is getting out of this arrangement. Netflix is paying NBCUniversal a licensing fee — albeit not a huge one considering the windowing and lack of exclusivity — to have “Suits” on its platform.
Twelve percent of the fee goes from Netflix’s wallet, through NBCUniversal’s pocket, into the creative guilds’ bank accounts, and eventually to the “Suits” creative team. The residuals money is divided among the guilds and the respective creatives using a standard formula negotiated between the unions and the AMPTP. There is no performance bonus tacked on, a source with knowledge of the deal told IndieWire, but the gigantic adoption of “Suits” by new audiences will sure help come renegotiation time.
If all of this playing nice across platforms seems new, well, it is and it isn’t. While in recent years the trend has been to hoard original programming on an exclusive basis, what is syndication if not licensing programming externally? And we’re not just talking about the pre-streaming days.
The so-called “Netflix Effect” is what famously propelled AMC Network’s “Breaking Bad” to the top of the TV drama world. It did the same in comedy for Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek,” and even kept The CW from canceling its low-performer “All American.” Each of those examples came while the respective shows were first on the air, however.
In more modern times, the Netflix Effect kept NBC’s “Manifest” afloat and saved Fox’s “Lucifer” from purgatory; Netflix just straight up took — and concluded, via original seasons — those broadcast series.
What’s old is always new again.
“This is something we used to do all the time,” Bloys said.
It’s also something
HBO Max is presently doing in reverse. Currently, seven AMC shows — “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “Dark Winds,” “Gangs of London,” “Ride with Norman Reedus,” “A Discovery of Witches,” and “Killing Eve” — are streaming on Max. The series will all leave the Warner Bros. Discovery streaming platform on Halloween, which feels thematically appropriate for most of them.
While some money (almost) surely changed hands, the real goal of the AMC-Max arrangement is exposure. AMC, which is heavy into linear cable and light on streaming subscribers, knows the Max platform can bring more eyeballs to its programming. And with a short window — it was a 60-day deal — perhaps Max hooks some viewers and forces a few AMC+ sign-ups.
Bloys added that “everything we sell is co-exclusive, so it’s not like they come off Max and are only available elsewhere.”
Except sometimes they do. WBD packed up “Westworld,” “F-Boy Island,” “Cake Boss,” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” as well as 90 Warner Bros. films, and shipped them off in FAST channels for Roku and Tubi. Those, like so much other content from Fall 2022 to Spring 2023, definitely came off Max.