Netflix: Manufacturing Virality

Netflix has a new superpower: manufacturing virality. In the past two months, Netflix has launched four viral hits: Bird BoxFyre, You, and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. 

Each release has a different takeaway. Together, they illustrate Netflix’s influence over Hollywood and American culture. 

Bird Box: The movie was viewed by more than 45 million people over its first seven days (Netflix defines a video view as 70% complete). Amazingly, Netflix barely marketed or promoted it. As Matthew Ball noted, the Netflix homepage is the most valuable promotional real estate in the world. Netflix controls every single pixel and won’t rent it to anybody.

Fyre: This documentary will teach more people about fraud and deception than any book on the subject. 

You: You first premiered on Lifetime, where it averaged 650,000 viewers, which led to the cancellation of the show. You was then picked up by Netflix, where 40 million households watched it in the first month. As Greg Berlanti said: “It went from being one of the least-watched shows I’ve ever worked on—and I’m choosing to take Netflix at their word on this—to being the most-watched show I’ve ever worked on in 20-something years.”

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: This Netflix Original was adapted from a book with the same title, published in 2014. You’ve likely seen it in book stores. But until the Netflix show, the ideas in the book were rarely discussed. Now that it’s a Netflix show, Marie Kondo comes up in memes, tweets and conversations all the time. 

Three takeaways: 

  1. People love to say that the best content wins. I disagree. Distribution is king.

  2. The best education smells like fun and looks like entertainment. 

  3. If you want an idea to spread, put it in video, not in writing.

Congratulations to Netflix. These are impressive achievements.