Netflix Is Licensing Far Fewer Films These Days

Netflix doesn’t license out its series and films to others, and now it is pumping the brakes on just how many films its licenses from others.

In the second half of 2023 (July 1-December 31), Netflix had 7,700 acquired films in its library, according to a MoffettNathanson dissection of the streamer’s latest data dump. Sounds like a lot, right? It is, until you consider that the tally is 20 percent lower than what the service had in the first six months of the year.

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A quick note: “acquired” in this case refers to content licensed to Netflix, like its current number 1 film on the platform, “Godzilla Minus One” (pictured above), not movies it buys outright (like “Hit Man” from the Venice Film Festival) or produces for itself (like “Maestro”).

Before you accuse Netflix of being anti-movie (not to be confused with being anti-movie theater, which it most certainly is), the platform also saw a double-digit decline (-10 percent) in its number of acquired series to a bit under 3,300. The number of available original TV series (also around 3,300 — it is quite the balance by design) was largely stable throughout all of 2023.

Netflix had about 1,600 original films throughout the year.

For the most part, it is its original content that tends to drive viewership on Netflix. There are noisy outliers, of course, like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” New originals continue to attract the most engagement on a per-hour basis. Older originals do about as well as acquired titles.

The second half of 2023 was an interesting — if not fully confounding — time period for Netflix to slow its content-licensing strategy. These were the same months where much of Warner Bros. Discovery’s licensed content, like “Young Sheldon,” “Ballers,” and “Sex and the City,” debuted on Netflix. They also included the summer when “Suits” dominated; and last but not least, it spanned almost the entirety of the strikes. You would think with writers and actors on the picket line, Netflix would have embarked on a licensing spend-spree, especially with all of the extra cash that comes with full and sustained production stoppage.

IndieWire reached out to Netflix with a request for comment on this story and MoffettNathanson’s research, but we did not immediately receive a response.

Netflix and its investors aren’t sweating any of this, nor should they be. NFLX shares are now worth twice what they were at the start of 2023. Why? In short: revenue.

One thing at Netflix definitely did grow as the year went on. The streaming king added a whopping 22 million subscribers over the latter half of 2023. With the exception of the first half of 2020, when the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic locked the U.S. down, the back half of 2023 was Netflix’s best six-month period of subscriber growth ever. That, however, has nothing to do with library size and everything to do with Netflix’s password-sharing crackdown.

Netflix added 25 million subs, globally, in the first half of 2020 — and seemingly all of them watched “Tiger King.”

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