How Did Netflix Win Over Millennials?

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

How often do you see the bold, all caps, “SPOILER ALERT” warning when scrolling through your News Feed? Instantly, you know you have to avert your eyes, keep scrolling and avoid clicking on that link, even though you’re dying to know if Daryl is next to die in The Walking Dead. With social media elevating consumer conversations surrounding TV and pop culture, (and spoiling some major plot twists) Netflix’s recent promo perfectly illustrates not only how the social anxiety of spoilers is fueling the TV binging movement, but more importantly, how in tune the King of TV is with connecting its millennial viewers to their high-quality content.

Netflix’s new spot shows the consequences of being the worst kind of rat. The kind that gives away spoilers without asked what S.E. (season and episode) someone is on. While the ad is a great example of the type of content that Netflix produces, there is so much more at play that truly explains how Netflix has inspired millions of Millennials to cut their cords and move away from cable and opt for a Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO, kind of life.

Netflix “original content” is the key differentiator

The “Worst Kind of Rat” spot is specifically about Netflix Original content; reminding Netflix users just how many people are die-hard Orange is the New Black fans. This suggests that Netflix is home to the best original content, and you’re clearly missing out if you don’t have access to it. During a time when users are choosing media allies based on accessibility of content (time, cost, convenience, etc.), this is a smart move.

Additionally, now Netflix ads are “original content” themselves. This spot demonstrates that Netflix isn’t just a media house like many traditional platforms. Instead, it’s reminding people that Netflix is an entertainment company first and foremost — it is the best producer, director, storyteller, you name it.

This spot doesn’t talk about how “innovative,” “cutting edge” or even “simple to use” the Netflix platform is (even though most consumers would argue Netflix has one of the better UX designs). Instead, Netflix knows people come for content and will quickly walk away if their expectations are not met. Instead of focusing on right time to air or major sponsors, the company has invested in creating the best content designed specifically for its viewers.

Netflix encourages personalization

Traditionally, a great “Primetime” TV show airs during a time when we know, statistically, that most people are able to watch. This allows big media companies to charge higher rates for ads during these programs. There’s a science to this and a duality that isn’t easily observed. Do the best shows with the largest audience get the primetime spots? YES. But, do networks manufacture shows to garner the largest audience? YESx2.

At the end of the day, everything feels more watered down and disconnected. Netflix, on the other hand, has a different model entirely — not limited by “time slots.” It empowers users to consume content on their own time in their own way without being restrained.

Netflix has also capitalized on the desire for personalization among the millennial audience. You can assume my coworker that has a two-year-old consumes completely different content through Netflix than I do. Rather than trying to create cookie cutter content that applies to all viewers, this diversity is encouraged among the Netflix audience.

Netflix is the modern TV culture change agent

Paired with the above notion of consumer control, this fundamentally changes modern TV culture. Think about it this way. If you walk into work on Friday after a BIG primetime event on Thursday, you can expect everyone in the office to be talking about it. However, if you didn’t see the show you might feel like you missed out. That is what big networks wanted. They have spent billions of dollars over the past decades creating an environment where real-time feels like the only time to catch a big premiere or event on TV. However, that is exactly what Netflix does NOT want!

Netflix has reversed the trend so that all episodes are available all the time, changing the conversation from “you missed out”, to “you should get involved.” The company has quickly taken away the “real-time” urgency from big networks.

How can cable networks get on board?

That is the million-dollar question.

Time Warner Cable recently took steps to make themselves more relatable to a Netflix-oriented generation of millennials. In a move that breaks from tradition, the cable network promised that it would be cutting commercial time on one of its major networks, TruTV, next year. If all goes according to plan, the provider will continue cutting ad time from other networks like TNT, TBS and CNN. Not only does this change benefit younger viewers who are increasingly turning to Netflix for fewer advertisements, but it also creates an environment where ad space on the networks will be more valuable. Forcing brands to create more relevant ad content for viewers.

Other cable brands are following TWC’s example and are exploring new opportunities that exist to bring back younger viewers. Until then, however, I along with my fellow millennials, are perfectly comfortable spending Saturday afternoon doing nothing but binge watching House of Cards.

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.