Netflix’s flubbed foray into livestreaming was a topic of discussion during the streamer’s first-quarter earnings on Tuesday with co-CEO Greg Peters telling investors how sorry the company was for “disappointing so many people,” and explaining in more detail what had happened. Over the weekend, Netflix had been set to release its first live reunion special with the cast of “Love is Blind” Season 4, but serious technical issues led to the stream being canceled after a 75-minute delay. The new episode was filmed and then quickly published as a traditional video-on-demand as a result of the issues.
Subscribers were naturally unhappy about the glitches, as they had carved out time to watch the show when it was originally set to air. It’s worth noting that getting people to tune in to so-called “appointment TV” is a highly difficult task in the age of streaming. It’s no small matter, then, for Netflix to drop the ball here, especially as the show was meant to showcase Netflix’s new livestreaming capabilities.
Before this, Netflix had only livestreamed one other event when, in March, it debuted Chris Rock’s “live comedy special Selective Outrage.” In the week following its release, the special had been viewed for a total of 17.8 million hours and reached Netflix’s Global Top 10 chart.
What crashed Netflix’s reunion special, however, was not necessarily a large surge of viewers.
On the Q1 earnings call, Peters confirmed that around 6.5 million people ended up watching the “Love is Blind” reunion, though he didn’t clarify during what time frame.
Instead, Peters acknowledged the technical glitches had to do with an internal bug the company had introduced after the Chris Rock special in March, which wasn’t discovered until it tried to livestream again under the load of millions of viewers.
“I would start by saying we are really sorry to have disappointed so many people. We didn’t meet the standard that we expect of ourselves to serve our members,” Peters explained on the call. “And just to be clear from a technical perspective, we have got the infrastructure, we had just a bug that we introduced actually when we implemented some changes to try and improve livestreaming performance after the last live broadcast, Chris Rock in March. And we just didn’t see this bug in internal testing, because it only became apparent once we put sort of multiple systems interacting with each other under the load of millions of people trying to watch ‘Love is Blind,’” he explained.
The company stressed that it would learn from the mistake and stressed that it does have the fundamental infrastructure to allow for more live streams in the future.
Though Netflix didn’t tease any upcoming projects, co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the company would continue to use live “when it makes sense creatively,” such as with other comedy specials like Chris Rock’s and reunion shows that will generate buzz.
“It really does play better live when people can enjoy it together,” he said, but noted that most of the viewing takes place after the livestream airs.
“I do think sometimes those results-oriented shows do play out a little bit better on live and they do generate a lot of conversation,” Sarandos said on the call. “But keep in mind, like on Chris Rock, about 90% of the viewing have been after, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was a big event when it happened live.”
Despite the glitches, Netflix managed to capitalize on the buzz around the reunion special in another way — by poking fun at itself on an LA billboard that reads, “We told you the Love is Blind reunion would be memorable!”
Still, the streamer may not get many more passes to work out the bugs with its live platform.
Its subscribers are already frustrated over rising streaming prices, password-sharing crackdowns and, in some people’s opinion, declining content quality. The latter is something Sarandos himself also acknowledged last year, saying that Netflix has to improve on the core service, “which is making TV series and films and now games that people really love.”
The company, at the time, had just come off its first-ever subscriber loss.
Its first-quarter earnings didn’t fare quite as poorly, however. The streamer reported revenue of $8.16 billion in the quarter ending in March, ahead of the $8.18 billion Wall Street expected, and earnings per share of $2.88, ahead of estimates of $2.86. It also reported the addition of 1.75 million subscribers, but this came in under estimates of 2.3 million.
Netflix had originally intended to roll out its password-sharing crackdown in the U.S. in the first quarter but pushed that back to Q2. It said it now plans a broad rollout, and not just one limited to the U.S. The company’s share price dropped from $330.70 to $307 in after-hours trading, but then rebounded. Currently, it’s trading at around $321.
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