Netflix aired its first show live, with Chris Rock

Netflix aired its first show live, with Chris Rock

Netflix aired its first show live

In the US, Netflix aired several commercials last week to promote Chris Rock's new comedy special, with the tagline "It's live". The streaming service that revolutionized traditional television with on-demand content would have broadcast a stand-up show: live, at four in the night between Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 March, Italian time.

Netflix's latest experiment

The platform seemed to be an ironic and intelligent move at the same time. Rock is a veteran of American comedy, a character who, Robbie Praw, Netflix vice president of stand-up and comedy, told The Wall Street Journal, is "on the Mount Rushmore of comedy." In the United States, his comedy specials represented television appointments when this modality was still the only existing type of television.

Entrusting Rock with a live special to convince the public to watch a content en masse – broadcast on a week before the 2023 Oscars — where the comedian was slapped on stage by Will Smith last year — is a bold strategy on Netflix's part. But that the latest attempt to dominate the debate by the streaming giant is presented in the form of a live television broadcast – complete with a pre-show and after-show – is also a curious fact.

As Praw pointed out to the Wall Street Journal, watching a comedy special "live on Netflix is ​​a real change" in the established formula between the platform and its 231 million subscribers globally. But it's also an attempt to insert Netflix into the conversation by resorting to the same methods that the company subverted when it launched its streaming service in 2007. At the time, Netflix transformed the dynamic of TV dating by getting people on social networks to talk about the fact that they were watching House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black. In an age where streaming has overwhelmed viewers with choices, a live event starring a comedian who hasn't spoken publicly since the 2022 Oscars story seems like the best way Netflix has to corner the group chat. And, judging by the many reactions – both on information sites and on social networks – to the words with which Rock returned to the aggression by Will Smith, the goal was achieved.

Full circle

I've already talked extensively about how streaming services – including those that haven't been launched by mainstream networks (like Disney+, or Hulu and Hbo Max in the US) – have now transformed into television networks. But at a time when Netflix is ​​moving towards limiting password sharing and has introduced a subscription plan with advertising, the impression is that, rather than revolutionizing TV, streaming has rather shown the players already established in the sector what television might be like in the age of high-speed internet. It took a while, but eventually networks took a cue from Netflix's example and launched their own services. In turn, Netflix is ​​now adopting the things those companies had already learned in the years leading up to its advent. That is, that sometimes the public is willing to put up with advertising if it means saving money, but also that advertisers who buy advertising space need guarantees that people are actually tuned in to a certain content.

What will all this mean? Part of it will depend on the success of the Chris Rock special. If it turns out to be even marginally popular, and able to stimulate conversations, it is likely that other platforms - including Netflix itself - will decide to buy other live events. Amazon is already doing it: Prime Video has invested about a billion dollars a year to secure the rights to some football games in the United States and has done the same with the Champions League in Italy. While the football audience numbers were disappointing by some estimates, the experiment still showed potential: Audiences are willing to watch live programming on streaming platforms, complete with commercials. In other words, the old man returns.

This article originally appeared on US.

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