$17 Billion To Spend On Programs

Netflix Update
Peter Hamilton instructor RD

Guest Post by: Peter Hamilton, Documentary Business Strategist

Publish Date: January 30, 2023

Netflix is charging ahead after hitting financial headwinds in 2022.

And documentaries are a firm fixture in its growth plans.

What’s driving the good news?

An expanding subscriber base for a start!

The streamer added 7.7 million new subscribers in the 4th Quarter of 2022, ending the year with 231 million worldwide.

Netflix also launched an advertiser-supporter option that will add a new revenue stream.

This positive financial outlook bolsters the company’s confidence in spending $17 billion on content in 2023.

And by the way, it’s a measure of Netflix’s dominance that Disney+, Discovery+, and all the other streamers combined, spend another $7 billion on programming.

And here’s another competitive indicator: Netflix’s audience dominates the other streamers. For example, Nielsen’s helpful Gauge reveals Netflix’s viewing as more than 3 times Disney+ and 7.5 times Peacock!

Chart 2023 Streamers, Cable, TV

Netflix 2023 Update: Traditional Docs

How can documentary producers win a slice of Netflix’s enormous program budget?

Netflix’s first documentary acquisition in 2014 was The Square. It was a Sundance award-winner about the Egyptian Revolution. 

Netflix will continue to commission films like The Square that address important topical stories, particularly ones that drive conversations about social change. 

They prefer to work with established, award-winning filmmakers, and therefore newcomers must have developed great projects to break in against that level of competition. 

We cover in depth the key success criteria for a successful winning pitch in our Selling to Netflix and the Streamers course, emphasizing: Unique Access, Big Characters and High Stakes.

Our course features a unique database of 950+ Netflix commissions and acquisitions - it is an invaluable, searchable guide to what Netflix wants. And not!

Who Are Netflix's Buyers?

Our Netflix course lists the key executives who are documentary buyers and are located at Netflix's Los Angeles headquarters, as well as in UK, France and other regions.

It's management's top priority is to find programs that appeal intensely to local audiences, and that can also travel worldwide.

Netflix 2023 Update: Popular Unscripted Programs

Netflix is now aiming to broaden its programming selection to attract the audiences who will watch general entertainment programs. 

In the unscripted category, that means more Reality, Competitions and Formats. The bar is incredibly high for indies to win these commissions, but a powerful character-driven concept can find support, particularly in partnership with an  established production company.

Netflix 2023 Update: International Gateways

Subscribers outside North America are driving Netflix’s growth. 

It’s management’s top priority to find programs that appeal intensely to local audiences, and that can also travel worldwide.

Listen to Dolores Emile, the manager of Netflix’s documentary content in France:

“We are really looking for local, impactful, ambitious stories that have to resonate for our local French audience.” 

“What all of our ideas have in common is they are super-locally impactful and that’s the most important thing for us. I get a lot of pitches from international production companies but it’s important to reiterate that, for France, and Spain, we’re looking for local stories.”

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Selling Your Documentary To Netflix & The Streamers

Netflix 2023: Summing Up

It’s been 10 years since Netflix up-ended the industry with the launch of original series content with the binge-worthy drama series House of Cards.

After a series of setbacks in 2021, the company stormed back last year and is now winning the global subscribers that sustain an enormous investment in programming, including documentaries.

The bar is high for indie producers. Our Selling to Netflix and the Streamers course provides the tools that will set you on the path to success.

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About The Author

Peter Hamilton instructor RD

Peter Hamilton is a media & business strategist and former CBS executive who has directed his New York-based international consulting firm for 30+ years.

His clients have included NBC, A+E Networks, National Geographic Channels, Global Canal+ and BBC; the Rockefeller Foundation; and governments, including Singapore’s IMDA. He has planned and helped launch dozens of channels, notably for Discovery International.

Peter is the founder, editor & publisher of Documentary Business, giving weekly insider analysis to 20,000+ executives and producers worldwide.

He is the executive producer of Season of the Osprey for PBS Nature and worldwide distribution.

His office, Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc has produced a series of premium industry reports/guides, including the resource-packed course: Selling Your Documentary To Netflix and The Streamers 2024.

Hamilton was educated at The Wharton School, UPenn (MBA) and UMelbourne and regularly presents at major conferences, including MIPDoc and Sunny Side of the Doc.

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