Content making is a profit-making business, and not a social enterprise, which means money is made not just by how good a show is, but how many of them can be made. Some would argue it’s the easier way. Make as much as possible, and see what sticks.

Picture this: you open Netflix on a Saturday night, spend an hour looking for something to watch, watch half-episodes that don’t grip you, and ultimately go back to an old favourite, dissatisfied with the whole process of choosing. You wish there was an easier way to know what to watch – rather than going through half episodes, you wish you already knew what was good and what to see.
Simply put: what is worth it?
The reason for this Netflix Problem is more complex than just an abundance of content. When producing stories fast with a quick churn rate is the name of the game, the engagement value of these shows tends to plateau after say, the first three or four episodes.
Many reasons for this. First – it takes time to create a good piece of art. Less time, reduced quality of art. This model is in use possibly because three to four episodes is what you need to draw in a potential platform subscriber. Content making is a profit-making business at the end of the day, and not a social enterprise, which means money is made not just by how good a show is, but how many of them can be made. Some would argue it’s the easier way. Make as much as possible, and see what sticks.
But from the viewer’s perspective, when every book is a New York Times bestseller, and every show is marketed as having 100 million viewers, all you want to know before you consume content is that it won’t disappoint. How do you choose?
When there is an explosion of content, a certain role becomes very necessary. Someone who can sort through all the content and recommend what is worth spending time on. In an abundance of content, the people who can pinpoint what to watch become an important part of the content industry, especially those who can balance quality with stories that have a mass appeal. You need someone to sort through all the plethora of content out there, divide it up and organize it for you, and recommend content for you based on what you’re vibing with. A digital treasure hunter, so to speak.
It’s a phenomenon that we see all around us. When there’s an outburst of a certain product in the market, organizing that product according to the consumer becomes a valued skill and a business in its own right. Uber and Ola took the abundance of taxis out on the road and put a consumer-first business model to it. Spotify is the strongest example of this form of recommendation; where its API (Application Programing Interface) compares users’ listening history and recommends songs accordingly. Interestingly, a disorganized form of this approach is how I have discovered content tailored for myself. It’s simple really – the books that are repeated in the recommendation lists of many of the readers who’ve read and liked the same books as me, are books that I usually always like as well.
Content creation leads to content curation. The studios and platforms that are doing the best are the ones that have balanced both. A streaming platform that has managed to hit the sweet spot between creation and curation is Starz, which is now known for its female-focused historical period dramas centering around 16th- 18th century Europe. Starz first came to my notice when it optioned Philippa Gregory’s ‘The White Queen’. It was a great success, and on the back of that success, Starz then proceeded to option all of her novels, which are centered on the same time period. Starz is also known for Outlander, a time travelling novel set in 18th-century Scotland. In a consumer’s mind, Starz is now the go-to for historical dramas, and Starz has embraced this role thoroughly.
From an Indian perspective, a streaming platform that has managed to strike a balance between creation and curation is SonyLiv. It’s known for homegrown, desi stories. Apple TV is another platform that is doing well in terms of making quality content from book to screen adaptations. But the more ‘global’ platforms, like Netflix and Prime Video, and Hotstar in India, have become open genre bazaars. The problem here is that when you go to shop, you go to specific markets. Netflix and Prime and Hotstar, the ‘trinity’ of OTT in India, now have acquired so much that it becomes daunting for a consumer to decide what to watch. Simply put – I don’t know what Netflix’s brand is anymore. I don’t know what I would go there to see.
From an expansion sense though, a platform is looking to be a home for everybody. Which makes sense. But then, when a platform expands beyond genres, it must also seek to curate and organize its information in a way that is accessible to the consumer. It’s not enough to tell me what’s trending or what’s new. Think of it as sorting out your closet. The shirts go on the right, the socks go in the drawers, the trousers are folded in the lower cabinet, and the ties are hung on the doorknob. Streaming platforms now need to accommodate a digital version of this approach to their mountain of content.
On social media, a lot of individuals have embraced the role of content curation under #bookstagram, where they recommend books weekly, and many of them have quite a following. For me, it’s a way to discover content without doing market research myself. However, when it comes to curating films and shows, there is still a gap in the market, and this is where there is an opportunity for the streaming platforms themselves to step in and make it a feature of their online model. It’s not enough to give the user a search engine anymore.
What we want, and what we’re headed towards is a curated playlist of books and shows, pre-recommended, and pre-vetted and personalised. And since content creation will only grow, the Netflix Problem can only be addressed by the Spotify solution. Because ultimately, isn’t that what we want in content? To know beforehand, without spoilers, that the content we spend our downtime consuming is ‘worth it?’