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Netflix’s Tudum problem

Netflix’s Tudum problem

The fansite Tudum was announced by Netflix last year in a bid to boost its offer to subscribers, bringing with it a whole suite of new writers and content creators. But when Netflix’s share price dropped the new staff were one of the first things to go. What happened?

It’s become one of the best-known logo sounds of our age. 

[Clip: Netflix’s opening sound]

Tudum – as it’s known – signals the start of anything users watch on Netflix, the streaming platform that radically changed the way people consume media. 

In December 2021, in a bid to improve its offer to subscribers, the streaming service launched Tudum, a fansite that would produce free and exclusive bonus content to promote Netflix’s releases. 

Take a listen to this from the launch promo.

Henry Cavill: “Join me and all of your favourite Netflix stars.”

Adam Sandler: “I love that.”

Idris Elba: “Every one of those actors are my favourite actor.”

Henry Cavill: “In a first-ever Global fan event.”

Tudum’s launch promo

Three months before the site launched, Netflix held a massive global fan event.  

It featured exclusive interviews with stars –  such as Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron – across some 70 of Netflix’s biggest productions including Bridgeton and Stranger Things. 

Bozoma Saint John, then Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix, wrote that Tudum would allow fans to “dive deeper into the stories they love, fuel their obsessions and start new conversations.”

Netflix had ambitions to link subscribers’ viewing habits to the extra content on Tudum.

For example, if you had been watching Squid Game, you would then be shown stories about the show, behind the scenes content, or similar South Korean programmes when you signed in to Tudum. 

But inside Tudum all was reportedly not well. Staff claimed they were left with little direction from the top, unsure how how these consumer metrics would be calculated. 

And for most of the public, the news of Netflix’s shiny new companion platform passed them by entirely. Only three posts from Tudum were ever shared by the official Netflix account on Twitter and one of those was the advert for the launch. 

So, why didn’t it take off?

***

Despite Netflix charging ahead in the online streaming market over a decade ago, the platform is facing challenges. 

Recent competitors like Apple TV Plus – creators of the Oscar-winning movie CODA – and HBO Max – which platforms the critically-acclaimed show Euphoria – have begun to produce and hoard their own content instead of selling it to Netflix. 

And successful franchises such as Marvel are on Disney+, which saw its subscriber base jump in the first quarter of the year.

 Here’s Jeff Sica, Chief Investment Officer of Circle Squared Alternative Investments, talking about Disney+’s edge over Netflix.

“First thing, they have this immense war chest, about $27 billion in what’s considered a rainy day fund… They are essentially extracting characters from their legacy assets and creating content out of those characters, which gives them the upper advantage.”

Jeff Sica, Chief Investment Officer of Circle Squared Alternative Investments

Viewers have also seen a return to weekly episode releases on those competitor platforms, unlike Netflix who tend to release entire seasons all at once. 

As the number of streaming platforms continues to grow, that high-volume, box-set model that Netflix had become known for just doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.

Especially, when factoring in their recent increase in subscription fees and a clampdown on password sharing.

***

Then, last month, this happened…

“The price of Netflix shares have fallen around 35 per cent since markets opened today. The drop could set the company up for its biggest fall in over a decade.”

Statement from Durham police

Less than six months after Tudum was announced, Netflix’s share price took a $50 billion hit and they reported a loss of subscribers for the first time in 10 years. 

Even worse, it was predicted that the losses would jump even higher in the second quarter of the year, with up to five million subscribers ditching the service.

Within a week of this announcement, the fate of Tudum’s cohort of new writers and content creators came to light, when a number of them flocked to Twitter to make their own announcements…

“So I got laid off from Netflix/Tudum today. Media is gonna media even when it’s not technically media, I guess.”

“Just got laid off from Netflix/Tudum, effective today. Email me with opportunities so I can pay my rent and help my parents survive.”

“Still processing that Netflix recruited me from my union job of SIX YEARS (which had 18 weeks severance) with the promise of new opportunities and a diverse team, only to lay me off months later with TWO WEEKS severance. some people moved to CA (California) for this gig! I’m devastated.”

Tweets from former Tudum employees

Even more controversially, most of the people who lost their jobs were reportedly Black, Latinx and Asian women. They were attracted to Netflix by the promise of high salaries, creative independence and, all-in-all, the job of a lifetime. 

But, firing people is not the only thing Netflix is doing in response to its dwindling share value. 

This is Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-founder and CEO.

“Allowing consumers who would like to have a lower price and are advertising tolerant to get what they want makes a lot of sense so that’s something we’re looking at now.

Working on how to monetise sharing. You know, we’ve been thinking about that for a couple years, but when we were growing fast it wasn’t a high priority to work on and now we’re working super hard on it.

Reed Hastings, Netflix co-founder and CEO

What’s more, the company has also announced it will be cancelling some of its upcoming projects – including Meghan Markle’s animated series, Pearl – in an apparent move to cut more costs. 

Tudum was supposed to be a marketing tool for Netflix. The company says it laid off around 20 members of staff because it is now “restructuring” its marketing team. However, the general consensus in the tech world is that Tudum was doomed to fail from the start, from the site’s technical problems to a lack of clear vision. 

As the cost of living crisis grips, people are choosing to spend money on things that they feel offer the most bang for their buck. 

From the outside looking in, Netflix is trying hard to bounce back. But they may need to think bigger to avoid a monumental fall.

Today’s story was written by Tomini Babs and mixed by Imy Harper.