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Marketing Streaming Services + The Mass Appeal Trap + How Movies May Respond: Streaming Services’ Effect on Modern Movie Marketing

08 September 2023

By now, it’s obvious that the streaming service industry has become a powerful disruptor to traditional on-TV entertainment. At first, many posed Netflix and its contemporaries as competitors to cable and broadcast television, though it’s also changed the movie industry over the last decade. Today we’re looking at how these streaming services have affected modern movie marketing.



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Marketing Streaming Services

Marketing is always changing, within and without your favourite streaming services. Once upon a time, Netflix led the charge with its free trial that gave users 30 days to try out the platform’s content, which stepped up after 2013 with Netflix Originals. That ended in 2019, as Netflix moved toward more profitability over endless subscriber growth.

However, it was a tried-and-true growth strategy that clearly worked for them, especially in an early 2010s environment where competition was scarce. The free trial or variations thereof are still in use across many other industries, like through Amazon Prime or leading iGaming websites. It’s rare for those looking for online casino promotions to come away empty-handed, with free spins and deposit bonuses on offer for new customers. These all serve the same purpose, put the service in people’s figurative hands so that they enjoy it and stick around.

While Netflix has ended this practice, its streaming competitors like Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Paramount+ still offer it. Disney+ did too, before ending the practice in 2020.

The Mass Appeal Trap

More and more, we have seen movie budgets bloating over the past decade. This is instrumental to understanding why traditional movie marketing is becoming a big risk, as more money gets wagered on the success of a film. Of the ten most expensive films ever made (where three of them tie for tenth place), ten out of 13 came out in or after 2015. Their budgets, which are just estimates, start at $300 million (£240 million) and top out at $447 million (£357 million).

With that information, it’ll surprise nobody to learn that all of them were direct sequels or continuations of joint film universes like the MCU. Conventional wisdom holds that at this level, marketing budgets for movies rarely fly under $150 million dollars, so you can add that to the tally, though more ambitious projects will spend even more than that.

The average movie budget has risen since 2015, creating a mass appeal trap where risks are harder to take if it’s not the biggest, most bombastic theatrical event of the year. This has led to a lot of talent moving to streaming services where the budgets and expectations, along with the targeted audiences, are smaller. After all, Netflix and its competitors can host multiple shows and movies from every genre, where customers can pick and choose which ones they watch.

Throw in Disney and their strategy of releasing movies on streaming after their theatrical debuts, and sometimes skipping the theatre entirely, and you get the situation today where they compete.

How Movies May Respond

It’s important to remember that Hollywood doesn’t equal movies as a whole. There will continue to be smaller budget modern movies, some of them killing it at the box office and starting trends/genres of their own. However, Hollywood sets the tone for many Western movies, which is why their response to streaming will be important.

For big studios that want to weather the storm, the key is budget de-escalation by choosing to make many, smaller budget movies across multiple genres than the $500 million reboot that’s sure to get mass appeal. However, that exposes the studio to more risk, but recent flops have proven that ‘mass appeal’ isn’t exactly that appealing anymore or can’t live up to their budget.

Think of it as an ice cream cart offering vanilla or a selection of flavours. Currently, big-budget movies are a vanilla heap while streaming offers many flavours of entertainment, from action to comedy and horror. Like with streaming, not every potential audience member will watch every movie but with smaller budgets, they don’t need to.

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