By Dr Finola Kerrigan, Lecturer in Marketing
Department of Marketing, University of Birmingha
Six months ago, Netflix announced that their share price had fallen, with speculation surrounding their business model and their ability to continue to dominate the streaming space.
Half a year on, and although the share price has not significantly risen, Netflix has gained a significant number of new subscribers and has made the commitment to invest $10 billion on original content internationally.
Many have equated an increase in streaming services’ revenue and subscriptions with customers feeling dissatisfied with what cinemas have to offer – this does not seem to be the case in the UK.
2018 saw another strong year for UK cinema. As a researcher on film marketing and consumption, I have heard many ‘death of cinema’ predictions over the years. These predictions, however, fail to understand the diversity of cinema’s audience. In order to understand the contemporary landscape for cinema, broadcasters and streaming services, we need to look at the three Cs of contemporary media consumption; convergence, consumption tastes and choice.
In the introduction of Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture (2006), he highlighted that “every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms” (p.3). This courting has increased to a point where Netflix has now partnered with Instagram so that users can share Netflix recommendations via their Instagram Stories.
Television is no longer the poor cousin of film, and media consumption no longer takes place exclusively in our living rooms or cinemas. Netflix has capitalised on this convergence by providing the possibility to stream TV and movie content (or download for later use) on a variety of devices to watch whenever and wherever we like.
This flexibility reflects and facilitates changing consumer tastes, but this doesn’t appear to have resulted in the abandonment of cinema going as predicted. Charles Gant attributes this to our desire to escape from the current social and political climate, and to the efforts made by the exhibition sector to provide an enhanced customer experience.
While Netflix has been seen to offer more choice in terms of content and viewing options, cinemas also have much to offer. Results from the UK national Taking Part study reveal that watching films is a significantly popular pastime, with 84% of adults who watched TV having watched a film, and 58% of adults have watched a film at a cinema or other venue in 2016/17.
A study that I undertook with colleagues in Spain revealed four consumer segments in film consumption based on gender, price and film taste, these segements are well served by developments in the exhibition sector:
- Our research found some chains offering price-based incentives, such as the Cineworld Unlimited card, which mimics the low-risk approach of a Netflix subscription as you do not pay for an individual film but for access to a range of films shown in the Cineworld cinemas;
- The Everyman chain, a once small chain serving an exclusive art house audience, has recognised the willingness of some cinemagoers to pay more for a more luxurious viewing experience;
- Odeon has entered a similar market as Everyman with their Luxe cinemas but has recently drawn negative attention for the high prices charged at its flagship Leicester Square cinema;
- Apart from trends in pricing and enhancing the experience, the event cinema market is also thriving. For example, Secret Cinema broke box office figures with the rescreening of the Star Wars and Back to the Future films due to the high ticket prices for their event-focused screenings.
Regardless of whether we prefer our own private screens or a communal cinema experience alongside our fellow film lovers, our hunger for on-screen entertainment continues and will likely remain that way for a long time to come.