Making the right content for an audience costs money. A lot of money. Netflix is spending big in 2018, with $8 billion set to go on original content and renew successful series that are already on the service.
For the majority or the world, that's a big number. For Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Netflix, however, it’s not enough.
Hastings took to the stage at the 2018 TED conference, where he admitted that despite the figure there was more to be done, given Disney is about to rival Netflix with a new service and Amazon is also pumping billions into its TV shows.
“There are so many great shows on other networks, so we have a long way to go,” said Hastings, clarifying the money wasn't actually as that big a deal as it's "spread globally, so it’s not as much as it sounds.”
Betting on broccoli
To make sure the money is spent in the right places – which isn't Marco Polo or recent cancellation Everything Sucks – Hastings revealed a little bit more about how Netflix’s algorithm works.
And, surprise, it's using what you watch to guide it in the shows and the movies that it will produce for the service next, rather than what you rate as good or bad.
"What happens is, when we rate, we're metacognitive about quality – that's sort of our aspirational self," he said.
"It works out much better, to please people, to look at the actual choices that they make."
Hastings did caveat this by noting it didn't mean the service will just have low-brow shows that cater for our binge-watching fix, but there will be more “broccoli” to its programming schedule, too.
"We have some candy," said Hastings. "But we have lots of broccoli, and if you have a good mix you get to a healthy diet.
"What we want is a variety. What we haven't seen is this race to the bottom."
Netflix is doing everything it can to get the right shows and movies on to the service and that includes opening up as much of its data to its whole company.
Hastings even went as as far as calling Netflix “anti-Apple”, in the context of how open it is as a company
“They compartmentalize, we do the opposite. Everyone gets all the information,” he explained. “I find out about big decisions made all the time that I had nothing to do with.”
Expect more big decisions to be made this year. Netflix has already shunned Cannes, because of France’s restrictive streaming laws. And it's proved time and again, it's not afraid to tackle Hollywood, with movies such as Bright bypassing the big screen despite their big budget.
This is the sort of competition is what Hastings relishes, explaining: “I love going up against Disney and HBO, that’s what gets me going.”
For us it's strong coffee, but each to their own.