It's the question that has Netflix writers around the world scratching their chins, and consulting screens filled with statistics: what is it that makes a Netflix hit?
Perhaps there's an actual formula that, when applied, can cause something to become a hit. Or maybe it's all down to chance — an edit of a show happens to go viral on TikTok, or a film features a currently popular actor or actress.
Whatever the reason, there seem to be some definite do's and don'ts that, when followed, can increase the chances of something becoming a hit. As an avid Netflix watcher, I consider myself a good authority on what some of these do's and don'ts are. Without further ado, here's my list of what makes a Netflix hit.
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An area where Netflix occasionally goes wrong is their lack of realistic characters. No one wants to watch a show or film where the characters are nothing like real-life people. When people watch television, they want to be sucked into the world of whatever they're watching. Having unrealistic characters prevents this from happening, and can decrease the chances of something becoming a hit. It's therefore crucial to have characters who viewers find authentic and convincing.
Creating realistic characters includes having dialogue that people would actually say as well as convincing character dynamics. For example, I would never come down to breakfast, ruffle my sister's hair and say "hey sis". Rather, have the character throw a muffin at their sister or have them scuffle for the television remote and I'll instantly be convinced that they're siblings.
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Next up is casting. Actor choices are a crucial element that can make or break a Netflix creation. Audiences are perceptive and can tell if an actor has no investment in the role that they're playing. Having actors who genuinely like their role can increase viewers' enjoyment of what they're watching, and improve the likelihood of a hit.
An important aspect of casting is having actors who actually look the age of the characters that they're playing. It's unlikely anyone will find actors in their mid-twenties playing high schoolers convincing (looking at you, Riverdale).
Heartstopper is an example of a show whose casting choices make sense. The majority of the cast are of similar ages to the characters who they're playing, and if you watch any cast interviews or scroll through their social media, it's clear that the actors are genuinely passionate about their roles, something which is evident in their acting.
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Perhaps a more subtle — but no less important — ingredient for a Netflix hit is a strong sense of atmosphere. Atmosphere is the mood or vibe that a show or film exudes. It can be created by music, setting and even outfit choices. Atmosphere is crucial; for something to be a hit, it is not enough for audiences to want to watch it — they want to feel it too.
A show that I would argue excels in creating a strong, evocative atmosphere is Netflix's Bridgerton. From its soundtrack which features instrumental pop songs, to the striking outfit choices, every last detail appears carefully thought out, resulting in a show that pulls viewers in and makes them unwilling to climb out again. The power of a compelling atmosphere is demonstrated by the fact that Bridgerton has recently been renewed for a third and fourth season due to the positive and enthusiastic response from viewers.
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Basic, but a necessity. Shows and films require a strong, coherent plot that viewers can easily follow. Less successful shows and films seem to meander along plots, or else introduce plot points that don't fit with what has already occurred.
For example, the teen show Riverdale began as a crime drama that was well-received by both critics and viewers. However, the show's later seasons have expanded to include supernatural themes such as superpowers; Archie develops super strength, while Betty gains the ability to read auras, to name a few of the bizarre twists. This sudden change in direction has left many viewers bewildered, and unhappy with where the show has veered.
I dont think any living person in this planet finished watching Riverdale— artemis✨👑 (@HaGyul__) February 11, 2023
Having a strong, deliberate plot also allows for things like foreshadowing and Easter eggs that viewers will notice upon re-watching a show or film. Such elements are often a point of discussion amongst viewers and can make watching something that much more enjoyable.
Drop the cliches. Seriously. A show or film is never going to become popular if it's oversaturated with tropes and one-liners that have already been used a million times before. It will just make for a boring watch, and decrease the chances of it ever becoming a hit.
However, this is not to say that employing popular tropes is always a bad thing. If done correctly, they can actually draw viewers in. It's simply a matter of putting a new spin on them that will be refreshing for audiences to watch.
This is particularly well done in Netflix's 2022 film Do Revenge which stars Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke. While the film utilizes some classic tropes, such as a makeover scene and the uncool kid transforming into the popular girl, it puts its own spin on it that I will not reveal due to spoilers. All I'll say is that I was already finding the film enjoyable, but the sudden twist that came made me hooked and cemented Do Revenge's position as one of my new favorite teen films.
i NEED more movies like do revenge (2022) immediately— ashton 🌌🕰🕯🌙 (@ashtxn_mae) February 3, 2023
So there you have it: my recipe for what makes a Netflix hit. Of course, there are other aspects that can make or break a Netflix film or show, but these are some of the elements that I would argue are non-negotiable. I believe that getting these right can dramatically increase the chances of something becoming a hit. Netflix writers, take note!