How can Netflix spend so much for original content and still make money?

In the short term, they can’t.

In 2017 Netflix reported a profit of $500 million. But they had to take on $2 billion in debt to make it happen.

This is due in part to the fact Netflix is spending $5-$10 million per episode for some of their more popular series.

While this clearly does not yield the greatest short-term fruit (creating your own content is a long-game activity) I’m more excited about how the new economics of television can lead to more creative freedom.

Beyond the ability to play with many millions of dollars for each episode to hire the best actors, build fantastic sets, etc… creating TV for streaming platforms like Netflix/Amazon where the entire season is released at once rather than shown every week over the course of months means you can revise.

because we don’t launch week-to-week, there is the built-in benefit that halfway through the season or towards the end of production, especially in a new series, once they’ve found their sea legs and know their characters’ voices and the actors, there’s the ability to go back and reshape some of the earlier episodes if it’s something the creator wants to do.

Additionally, I hope when producers/writers write for streaming series, they cut out more of the rushed character development at the beginning of series and much of the summarizing that happens at the start of episodes. Because viewers tend to treat an entire season like a single movie (by bingeing it), creators shouldn’t have to worry about making sure we’re all caught up with the plot, or hastily establishing a character’s persona right away.

Apparently there’s also a “leap of faith” that happens when you produce an entire season of a show for the streaming platform. When a show is airing every week, producers have the opportunity to listen to viewer feedback and record future episodes with that in mind. Yet, Netflix and Amazon producers have no such luxury, and thus have to fully commit to whatever they put into a show. This may be riskier for the them, but in theory I think this should make for bolder TV and better programs for all.

Portland

Happy Holidays!

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/upshot/happy-new-year-may-your-city-never-become-san-francisco-new-york-or-seattle.html

Our deepest anxieties about the future of where we live are embodied in other cities — in Portlandification, Brooklynification, Manhattanization. The comparison is seldom a compliment. You don’t want to become Manhattan (too dense), Portland (too twee) […]

I think Portland’s “twee-ness” is going to be the thing that protects it against the “Manhattnization” or “San Francisco-ization” the article talks about. Tech companies are sprouting up and prices are rising in Portland, but the sleepy, sentimental nature of the city may repel some of the more ambitious tech companies / people that would really hike prices. Young people go to Portland to retire, not to work their asses off or create billion-dollar startups like in Manhattan or the Bay Area. Just look at this journalist’s description of her time in Portland as a recent college grad.

Even the really big companies that do have the power to move housing prices on a larger scale (Nike, Intel) are concentrated in the suburbs where there is enough cheap land to build a big campus. This also makes them much more attractive to middle-aged professionals that want a sizable house and high-powered suburban schools (Jesuit, Beaverton, Sunset).

I may speak too soon, but the quirkiness of Portland (and its relative indolence) has a real economic advantage in that it buys the city some time to figure out how to deal with ballooning housing costs and preserving the middle class.

12/11/18

I was walking to my dorm when I passed a girl who was bawling… From what I made out, she had taken a final today that didn’t go well, and was apologizing to her mom at the prospect of getting a B- in the class… She said she had stayed up until 6am studying, etc…

It’s not my place to judge, but I think this is a real indicator something is going wrong with college…

Unrelated, here is an excerpt from one of my favorite poems. It’s part of an ad for Tourism Melbourne that airs whenever the Australian Open is on.

Let me watch the sea-rain falling,

Smell the salt, deck-driven spray;

Let me hear the bush-birds calling

At the dawning of the day.

*

Let me see the sun-bars streaming

Down the valleys, ere the night

Fills the world with pleasant dreaming

Love and coolness and delight

“Far and Wide”

E.J. Brady

12/09/18

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/college-gpa-career-success.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/sunday/wasps-meritocracy-ross-douthat.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

NYTimes (or at least their contributors) seems to be railing against the meritocracy as of late.

“Some people are born on third base and go through their entire lives thinking they hit a triple”

Don’t know who said this though… A quick google search gives conflicting accounts.

12/08/18

From Tyler Cowen’s MR

Honestly found the above pretty funny. I especially liked 2, 9, 10, 22, 28, 32, 33, 35, 36, 45.

When I’m feeling down or freaking out about my own situation, I really like to read anything by William Deresiewicz. Today it was a little from A Jane Austen Education, which is a little difficult because I haven’t read any of Jane Austen, but it’s also part memoir so you get a good feel of how Deresiewicz was as a young man.

It’s so comforting to me because his book Excellent Sheep has influenced me greatly and probably will forever. I actually sat down and did an interview with him once… I was so nervous and odd and inarticulate so it was awful, but I loved it nonetheless. Maybe this winter break I’ll get around to either transcribing it or editing it and putting it up.

Link + Lines

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-american-meme-a-new-netflix-documentary-records-the-angst-of-social-media-influencers

Don’t watch much TV, but this one might get me. From my personal experience (knowing those with large social media followings…), attempting to be an “influencer” can be an incessant grind. Every outing is dominated by pictures and there’s a lot of stress over if a post is doing well or not.

On an unrelated note, I was thinking about something my roommate said a little bit ago. He is a transfer from the University of Denver and said he’s never seen more lines for things than he has at UCLA. There are lines to get in to lecture, lines to get into dining halls, lines for food etc…

He’s right. There’s a pair of take-out restaurants on the residential side of campus that frequently get lines of 80+ people. The average time for the line to advance one person is probably around 45 seconds, so these people are waiting (80×45)/60 = 60 minutes to get a burrito/chicken bowl when there are numerous other (more expedient) options available!

Prima facie waiting an hour for a dining hall burrito seems ridiculous (I would probably only wait that long for a chipotle burrito if I was starving) but people still get in the massive line, and the big reason why I think they do is technology. When we’re able to distract ourselves at will, we’re willing to tolerate waiting an hour to get a burrito or a free t-shirt. I believe this more and more whenever I walk past one of the lines on campus and see everyone looking down at their phones.

The point above is probably pretty obvious, but I think it’s funny because it shows how bizarre our behavior can be. Somehow, we’ve reached a point where we can tolerate incredible inefficiency or wait times in real life, but get frustrated whenever a web page takes longer than four or five seconds to load. It seems to me that as long as our distractions are quick and timely, it doesn’t matter if the rest of our life is because we can retreat into the former at our convenience.

This reminds me of one of the main ideas driving Sherry Turkle’s book, “Reclaiming Conversation.” To paraphrase, she says that now we expect less and less out of our significant others, and more from our technology. We can see this clearly in the line example. I know boredom isn’t ideal and it’s bad practice to romanticize the past, but what would students in the 80’s or 90’s have done? Maybe they would have thought about something silly, whistled a tune, or made a joke with the person beside them. Maybe they would have taken the time to relax, or perhaps they would have skipped the line altogether, realizing how valuable their time was.

12/06/18

https://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/

Interesting application of Girard’s ideas to explain why college seems to be such an incredibly fraught place. I’ve heard the conclusion many times before (all people want is money/power/prestige) but hearing about how the similarity of all of the actors in a situation plays into it is interesting.

https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/12/05/minerva-project-draws-notice-its-practical-rigorous-curriculum?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=768e921e12-DNU_WO20181203_PREV_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-768e921e12-197603613&mc_cid=768e921e12&mc_eid=495c6bd417

Also interesting to hear that the Minerva curriculum is going well. I was skeptical of a university that has only online classes (considering how terrible I think many MOOCs are) but it seems like they got something right with the design. The fact that they students they have are exceptional could also help. I e-met a couple of them during my time in the Edsurge independent cohort and they were incredible. I personally still think a more traditional, personal education with heaps of face-to-face time with your teachers is the most valuable, but Miverva’s success could convince me otherwise.

UCLA Ed-Angst

I was thinking about the clear gap between institutional prestige and undergraduate educational experience that I’m seeing at UCLA. Yes, I know UCLA is a research university and the students tend to come second, but that shouldn’t stop me from thinking about it.

Because I have only experienced UCLA (and a little of Babson/USC,)I could go to other colleges and universities and take some classes there for a semester/quarter and come back to report on what the undergraduate experience is like but that’s impractical. I have asked some of my friends that do go to other universities how their education is shaping up and the results fall into two categories: If they go to a liberal arts or “elite” school, they generally love their experience so far and wouldn’t change it for the world. Otherwise (large public university/large private university), they either hate it, or don’t think about their educational experience that much (and to be fair, not everyone has to).

But I do think there is something ironic/tragic about one of the so-called “best” universities in the world (ranked #19 by US News and World Reports, whatever that means) giving the average student only a lackluster education. I would expect any university that’s good enough for Terence Tao is good enough for me, but I now know that’s bad thinking as Terence is one of the most brilliant mathematicians who have ever lived, and I am incapable of doing any type of academic research.

Personally, I think students (myself included) should stop falling for large universities. I understand they are a financial necessity for many and a great fit for some, but if you don’t want to spend the rest of your formal education sitting in lecture halls functionally taking MOOCs or having your papers read by TA’s, don’t come here. If you don’t want to have to apply to for nearly every undergraduate club, don’t come here. If you don’t want to go through entire classes never knowing the name of a single one of your classmates, don’t come here. If you really want to have to fight for the type of education that you want, do come here. I’ll do it with you.