Last year was a particularly good year for Netflix. The streamer picked up 8.5 million new subscribers in Q4, bringing its total paid membership to more than 200 million households. For the full year, Netflix added 37 million subs and earned US$25 billion in annual revenue—a 24% increase over 2019.
Beyond lockdowns keeping people more glued to their TVs than usual, Netflix attributes much of this growth to its wide array of content. In a letter to shareholders, the company said it had been building up its original library in anticipation of more SVOD platforms entering the market over the past 24 months.
Adult fare like The Crown and Bridgerton posted some of the SVOD’s biggest series premieres in 2020, but kids and family fare ruled in movie viewing. The animated feature film Over the Moon, for example, was watched by 43 million member households in its first 28 days, with “high levels of rewatching,” according to the shareholder letter. We Can Be Heroes, another family film, was watched by 53 million member households in its first four weeks, and 61 million people tuned in to watch all-ages holiday movie The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two.
Turning its attention to new content, Netflix reports that productions are up-and-running again in most regions, and it has more than 500 titles currently in post-production or preparing to launch. In Q1, the platform will roll out a live-action adaptation of the popular animated Winx series and family movie Yes Day.
The streamer has announced plans to adapt the YA graphic novel series Heartstopper (pictured) into an eight x 30-minute live-action series that will be produced by See-Saw Films, with Euros Lyn (Sherlock, Doctor Who) attached to direct. Creator Alice Oseman wrote all eight episodes, which are to be executive produced by See-Saw’s Patrick Walters, Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Iain Canning Emile Sherman and Lyn. Alexi Wheeler, Netflix’s director of kids and family content in EMEA, commissioned the series.
Heartstopper originally launched as a web comic on Tumblr and Tapas. Three volumes have already been published, and a fourth is on the way for May. The queer graphic novel centers around Charlie and Nick, who meet at an all-boys school in Kent.
Netflix noted in its shareholder letter that it’s also focusing on parental controls, including allowing members to filter content by title or rating. And the streamer has started to put together a weekly series of “Kids Activity Reports,” with messages about themes, characters and content that kids are watching.
Looking to the future, the SVOD intends to watch closely to see what YouTube and TikTok are doing, as well as keeping an eye on Discovery’s recently launched streamer, the continued expansion of Disney+, the rollout of Paramount+ this year and ongoing streaming efforts at Apple TV+, HBO Max and Peacock. Quoting from Netflix’s shareholders statement: “This signifies that these companies all recognize the future is streaming entertainment, a vision we have been working towards since inception.” To take on the competition, Netflix plans to “better delight our members.”