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Netflix Has a Public Relations Problem

Published on Feb. 17, 2023, at 10:08 p.m.
by Jenna Richardson.

Freestocks via Unsplash

Recently, I’ve been getting more entertainment from Netflix’s Instagram account than the streaming service itself. No, not because of the witty captions or the trendy posts — I skip by those and go straight to the comment sections.

Sometimes the controversy is over a canceled show, a problematic movie or a new policy. Whatever the case may be, there’s an endless stream of negative comments from subscribers. While it’s entertaining, it’s probably not that fun for the public relations professionals running Netflix’s social media — or for the company as a whole.

Netflix’s most recent controversy involves a policy that prevents password sharing. One look at the comments on Netflix’s Jan. 18 Instagram post and the trending #netflixpasswordsharing on Twitter tells you what subscribers think about this policy change.

Netflix responded with a statement to The Guardian, albeit a confusing one. According to a spokesperson, the original announcement of the policy was posted by accident. However, the company confirmed the policy will go into effect by March 2023. To make matters worse, Netflix has used jokes about password sharing to promote its services in the past. As Netflix said in a — now ironic — 2017 tweet, “love is sharing a password.”

I’ve always been a big fan of Netflix, but recent years have made it difficult for me to support the company. It’s not just the never-ending controversies, but also the way Netflix handles them. These recent issues are no different. Instead of listening to subscribers, it seems like Netflix plans to ignore them.

Past controversies and responses

Headway via Unsplash

The most frequent issue subscribers have with Netflix is its continuous cancellation of shows. Among the latest victims were the shows “Warrior Nun” and “Fate: The Winx Saga.” Netflix’s recent Instagram posts have been flooded with #savewarriornun and #savefatethewinxsaga comments, as fans lament the end of their favorite shows.

Perhaps one of the most protested show cancellations ever was “Anne with an E.” The show was canceled in 2020 after three seasons. Since then, a petition to renew the show has reached 1,673,364 signatures. Fans also raised money to get #RenewAnneWithAnE art on billboards in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square and NYC’s Times Square.

Netflix has mostly ignored the backlash. After the cancellation of the previously mentioned shows, fans were given no apologies or detailed explanations. In January 2023, Netflix’s new co-CEO finally broke the company’s silence. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ted Sarandos claimed that the company has “never canceled a successful show.” But, many fans disagree with him.

As if policy changes and canceled shows weren’t enough, let’s add problematic content to the list.

Most recently, its 2022 Marilyn Monroe film “Blonde” faced criticism for the inaccurate, fictionalized version of Marilyn Monroe that many considered offensive to her legacy. Netflix’s response? Absolutely nothing, though director Andrew Dominic did respond in an interview with Screen Daily with some choice words for subscribers who did not enjoy the movie.

To give Netflix credit, subscribers’ anger over its content is a testament to how popular it is. Many of the disappointed subscribers still come back for more. I’m not planning to give up my subscription right now; however, Netflix should remember everyone has a limit of what they will tolerate. The streaming service’s disrespect for its subscribers may be its downfall.

What can Netflix do differently?

Denise Jans via Unsplash

Netflix has a PR problem, both in brand identity and in consumer-company relationships.

So now, let’s finally get to the question we’ve been wondering — what could Netflix do to fix these issues?

Here’s my answer: Netflix, listen to your public relations professionals and give them a seat at your table.

Netflix does not seem to be using the resources it already has at hand. Netflix’s social media managers and other PR professionals read these comments, petitions and articles. They see their directors, actors and CEOs worsen situations with careless statements. They know what subscribers are unhappy with, and they know how to fix it. Public relations is all about building relationships of mutual respect with key publics. The company’s stock performance in the past 12 months suggests the negative impact rocky consumer relationships can have.

Netflix’s relationship with subscribers is seemingly crumbling, which is the opposite goal of public relations. Until Netflix starts to consider its public image and consumer relations an integral part of its success, the situation most likely won’t get any better.

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