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Why Does Netflix Have So Many Bad Movies?

By Edited Jun 22, 2016 1 4

Carmen Electra
Credit: wikipedia commons public domain - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Toglenn

Carmen Electra, B List movie goddess.

B List Movies Abound

A Netflix Targeted Audience Strategy

Settling in to watch a good streaming movie on Netflix is about as easy as looking out your window at night to see a comet fly past.  It can happen, but you can’t count on it happening very often.  I don’t put it in the category of pigs flying or other completely impossible phenomena, but you shouldn’t expect it to occur with any great frequency.  The online streaming collection of quality movies is somewhat limited and apparently will remain that way for a while.[1]

The Netflix Explanation

According to Jenny McCabe, the Director of Global Media Relations, Netflix is more of a channel for content than a library of all video and film content ever made.[2]  They say they are selective in what they provide as opposed to offering up everything possible.  This is a nuanced way of saying we try to pick what the most people will watch while paying as little as possible for the content.  Given that the subscription fees for online streaming remain under $10.00 per month, I can understand there is a budget issue.


Netflix doesn’t go out and buy all the rights to the shows and movies it makes available.  Buying all the rights would be expensive and movie studios may not even go for that without Netflix paying a huge premium.  Instead, Netflix pays for a license to use the content for a specific length of time.  Sometimes content is removed from Netflix[3] because the licensing rights have expired and renewal is viewed as uneconomical based on viewership versus cost.  A

Eric Roberts
license is something like a rental.  The streaming content provider contracts to show the movie
or show only under the conditions specified in the license, which always has a time limitation.

Alternative Strategy to Acquiring Expensive "A" List Films

Netflix generates a mindboggling amount of data regarding our viewing habits.  They can record what types of things we watch.  Their records show how long we watch particular content and when we view it.[4]  Making the best use of that data allows them to tailor their content to the audience demands, but only within the context of their business model.  Instead of willy nilly acquiring licensing rights to all low grade movies, they try to license the crud in the categories we appear to prefer.

You could think of it as a strategy of buying tailored crud.  If we like films about tornados and also movies about sharks, they aren’t going to pay for Jaws or Twister.  The folks at Netflix are going to license the likes of Sharknado in order to appease our disaster tastes.  The idea is to

Lorenzo Lamas
obtain the rights to what we want with the quality component not included.  Some argue that we love B List films so much that they are really what we want.[5]  Yes, I like B List movies sometimes.  Similarly, I like Taco Bell every once in a while.  Nevertheless, I don't want Taco Bell as my sole dining option.

Low Budget Studios

As an alternative to going on bended knee to the major studios to acquire A List film licenses, Netfix can feed the content demand beast by visiting a low budget film maker and describing programming needs.  The low budget production company can spit out a film meeting the demands of Netflix much faster than a major studio at an affordable licensing cost.  Asylum is one such production company.[6]   They churn out what Netflix and Redbox want to load up their selections.

Know What You're Buying

When you sign up for Netflix, it is important you understand what you are buying.  You buy the right to watch streaming video.  Out of all their content, the TV series are often outstanding but the movie quality is limited.  Netflix attempts to appease you with the movie types you like, except for the genre known as “good movies.”

Read about B List Films

You're Going to Need a B List Education with Netflix



Feb 27, 2014 12:07pm
Talk about zeroing in on something people have always wondered but never decided to investigate. Good article. The Netflix original programming is actually quite good. "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards" are two of my favorites
Feb 27, 2014 12:26pm
I haven't watched Orange is the New Black yet, but I will. I loved Weeds. I burned through the first season of House of Cards in about a week and am glad to see the second season is now available. Kevin Spacey is awesomely despicable and I've liked Robin Wright since Princess Bride.
Mar 8, 2014 11:09am
Great article. Me and my wife have actually had a few discussions about this topic. Thanks for helping it all make sense. I have also been pleased with their original programming. House of Cards is a great show.
Mar 8, 2014 2:05pm
Thanks! I watched a House of Cards episode earlier today.
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  1. Frederick E. Allen "Netflix's Lousy Selection of Movies." forbes.com. 2/2/2011. 27/02/2014 <Web >
  2. Tambay A. Obenson "Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See ." indiewire.com. 29/7/2013. 27/02/2014 <Web >
  3. Mike Flacy "Expiring Soon: These films will vanish from Netflix on New Year’s Day." digitaltrends.com. 31/12/2013. 27/02/2014 <Web >
  4. Meghan Neal "Why There Are So Many Terrible Movies on Netflix." motherboard.vice.com/. 12/7/2013. 27/02/2014 <Web >
  5. Jeff Kingsley "Rant - Why does Netflix have so many "bad" movies? (And why is this not a bad thing?)." planesnreels.blogspot.com/. 10/5/2013. 27/02/2014 <Web >
  6. Amanda Hess "Escaped from the Asylum!." psmag.com. 10/7/2013. 27/02/2014 <Web >

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