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Here’s the biggest clue yet that Netflix is in trouble

Updated May 19th, 2022 1:34AM EDT
Selling Sunset on Netflix
Image: Netflix

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Netflix’s financial prospects are bad enough at the moment that, following the loss of 200,000 subscribers last quarter — with a forecast of 2 million more during the current quarter — the company has gone on a cost-cutting spree. It’s trimming headcount and reversing the decision to move forward with a slew of new projects, among other things. And if all that wasn’t enough to tell you Netflix is on unsteady footing right now? How about this: An increasing percentage of people cancelling their Netflix accounts are longtime subscribers.

In other words, thanks to a confluence of factors that could include anything from favorite shows ending or getting axed to a preference for Netflix’s increasingly adept streaming rivals, more and more Netflix-cancellers are people who you’d have thought would have punched their Netflix loyalty card a long time ago. Yet it’s those people, especially, who are increasingly deciding they’ve had enough and want to stop paying for their Netflix account.

Netflix account cancellations on the rise

Data on the longtime subscriber cancellations comes from the research firm Antenna, which shared the numbers withThe Information. In summary, Netflix account holders who’d been subscribed for more than three years accounted for a mere 5 percent of cancellations at the beginning of this year. That figure, however, shot up to 13 percent in the first quarter.

As dire as all this might sound, though? Across all of tech and entertainment, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings is one of the few people who you probably don’t want to bet against over the long term. He, of course, engineered several company-wide leaps forward at Netflix, including the jump from DVDs to streaming. And then from streaming to an emphasis on Netflix making its own original content to stream. It’s more likely than not that he’ll figure a way through the current trouble.

What’s so fascinating about this moment in time for the company, though, is how Netflix has been gradually reversing many of the foundational principles of the streaming service. Longtime aversion to ads? That’s gone, with an ad-supported Netflix account tier coming soon. It used to be, also, that everything was meant to be binge-able all at once. Now, many shows follow a weekly release cadence.

Upcoming Netflix titles

The Gray Man netflix
Ryan Gosling in the Netflix movie “The Gray Man.” Image source: Netflix

All that said, suffice it to say that there’s a lot riding on Netflix’s upcoming release slate. The hope is that highly-anticipated titles like spy thriller The Gray Man can help reverse some of these trends for the company.

In fact, not only does this feature film include a Marvel star in the cast, and have the biggest budget ever for a Netflix original movie ($200 million). Netflix apparently thinks it’ll perform well enough that the streamer is turning it into a franchise. Specifically, a trilogy.

Other prominent upcoming Netflix titles, meanwhile, include the first half of Stranger Things’ fourth season. That one is coming next weekend. A new Adam Sandler movie, Hustle, is also coming to the platform on June 8.

More Netflix coverage: For more Netflix news, check out the latest new Netflix movies and series to watch.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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