3 Things to Learn from Netflix.

As I blogged about on Friday, Netflix dealt the mainstream media companies a major punch-in-the-face last week when their original series, House of Cards, was nominated for a Best Drama Series Emmy Award.

There are a lot of business lessons to be learned from this Netflix story – in fact, Netflix could probably make an original series about what they’ve done over the last two years – and they’re on such a roll, it would probably be nominated for an Oscar (you can bet movies are next in their developmental line up).

But here are the top three things I gleaned from this story about original stories.

1.  What goes down can come up.

One year ago, NFLX stock was trading around 50, after falling from well over 200.  People were writing it off.  The mail order DVD business was dead, people screamed.  Because DVDs were dead.  Then the CEO made a series of pricing and press gaffes that POed a lot of customers, including me.  iTunes and Amazon were drooling, hungry to scoop up all the biz.

One year later, that stock price is back over 250.  That’s right, had you bought back then, you would have made 5x on your money.

Businesses, and shows, go through cycles.  You just have to learn how to adjust and re-invent yourself along the way.  That’s harder in the theater, but still possible with new cast changes, new marketing looks . . . and . . . what if you even made a change to your show?

2.  You get what you overpay for.

House of Cards cost Netflix $50mm per season.  And they greenlit two seasons at once, at a time when they weren’t rolling in cash!

They were in-it-to-win-crush it.

Now personally, I love to save me some money.  I also love finding new and hungry young talented artists.  But sometimes, especially when you are entering unknown territory (like developing original television programming), it’s important to get the best, and cut no corners when you do.  Spacey is expensive.  Fincher is expensive.  The rights to the British mini-series on which the show is based were expensive.  But all those things are also awesome.

House of Cards was a win for Netflix before it even began.  When it was announced that Spacey was doing television, and it was on Netflix, people took notice (and the stock price jumped).  And then the show delivered.

It’s tempting to cut costs when your business back is against the wall..  But sometimes that’s when you have to double down, especially on talent.

3.  Content is the once and future king.

You want to be successful?  You want to turn your company around?  You want people knocking on your door asking you what’s next and paying you more for it?  Create original content.  Netflix had been distributing other people’s content for years.  And obviously you can do well with it.  Look at Roundabout, for example.  The revival market has been amazing for them (so amazing, they’re even going to revive their most successful revival this winter when Cabaret returns).  Or look at Barry and Fran Weissler – who’s better than them at producing revivals of musicals? (Chicago, Pippin, Grease, etc.)  But nothing, nothing, trumps creating something brand spanking new and then owning it.

 

The future of Netflix isn’t all rainbows and puppy dogs just yet.   But their turnaround story is something to marvel at and learn from.  Just imagine that you were that CEO just a year ago, staring at that $50 stock price and making a $100mm big bet on something that you were just giving away to subscribers?  How would you feel?

I’ll tell you something.  Unfortunately, there will come a time in your producing career (or acting/writing/tomato plant growing) when you will know that feeling.  It happens to all of us and it will happen to you.

What you do with that feeling is what separates the Producers from the Boys.

 

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Google makes surveying your audience easier.

Give Google enough time and they’ll figure out a way to beat just about every competitor out there (except for Facebook, of course . . . that Google Plus just doesn’t seem to be taking off).

The latest Google product to get me all hot and bothered is Google Consumer Surveys.

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than, oh, a day, then you know I love research like Mama Rose loves her Dainty June.  Too many decisions are made in this business by folks sitting around an ad table (who probably haven’t purchased a theater ticket in the last decade), without consulting the people that actually have to figure out how to get a babysitter, how to get the best seats, and how to afford our high prices.  (I just talked about this subject in this blog a few weeks ago.)

Well, like Superman to the rescue of a cat stuck in a tree, here comes Google with a survey design tool (not unlike Survey Monkey or Wufoo), that when combined with the Google network, allows you to actually find your customers!  Yep, forget me running to the TKTS booth to find out what the word Broadway means to theatergoers.  Forget me having to worry about how to collect enough email addresses from theatergoers so I can find out if 7 PM curtain times have an effect on Tuesday night theatergoing (not as much as you’d think) . . . . now Google has come up with a way to reach those theatergoers directly and online.

I’m excited.  You should be excited.  Because while gut instincts go a long way in this business, there is nothing better than being able to talk to the people that buy your tickets.

Oooh!  And I think I just came up with my first idea for a survey!  Stay tuned!

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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5 New Things About My Blog

Well, what do you think?

If you’re looking at this blog online, you’re looking at a whole new look.  (If you’re reading this via email, then you’re also seeing a new look, but click here  to see the total new PP experience.)

Since it’s Spring Cleaning time, we thought we’d give my blog a wet-nap and clean her up a bit.  Truth is, we’ve given her a little master-cleanse as well, to flush out her insides to help your online experience even more.

Here are five new features about the design that you may/may not notice:

  • We’ve made the switch from TypePad to WordPress.  Sorry, TP, you served me well, but I fell in love with WP when I wrote my Godspell Blog, and it can do things you can’t.
  • All upcoming seminars are in one easy-to-find place, right to the right.  I received a bunch of emails from people who missed seminars just because they didn’t know when they were.  So here they are, for all to see.
  • There’s a menu bar at the top, which includes some of the previous design’s most popular links.  Also, check out the search box.  Want to read blogs about “crowdfunding”?  Just type budget in the box and away you go.
  • The “Leave a Comment” button has moved from the bottom of the entry to right underneath the headline.  So check it out and click it often.

And finally . . .

  • I finally got rid of that photo of me with the ripped jeans-look from like 2005.  I went with the navy jacket/white shirt.  I figure that can never go out of style.

Let me know what you think of the new design and the new experience!  Click that comment button (on the headline, remember?) or drop me an email to give me any feedback and we’ll continue tweaking the look as we go.

And just like a show in previews, we’re still working out our kinks, so if you notice anything that isn’t quite right (or want to suggest something to make it better), email me and let me know!

Now that we’ve got a new look . . . it’s time to come up with some more new ideas for the theater.

 

(Got a comment? I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

– Broadway Investing seminar on 4/14.  Register today!

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What I learned from eating chips and salsa.

If you’ve ever hung around me outside of NYC, then you know I’ve been known to drool at the sight of a Chili’s.  Maybe it’s the bottomless chips & salsa, maybe it’s the bottomless cokes, but whatever it is, it gets me to stop, whether I’m hungry or not.

I was at a Chili’s recently and when I got the bill I noticed what so many of you have probably noticed at restaurants (and a lot of retail stores from Rite Aid to Starbucks, etc.) around the country . . . every bill now comes with an opportunity for you to win a grand or two if you fill out their online survey.  (check it out here.)

Here’s a company that’s not just surveying random people every once in awhile. They are making a concerted effort to try and get a quality control report on EVERY SINGLE patron (and, of course, they are also trying to collect consumer information at the same time).

Which, of course, leads me to the leading statement of . . . we should be doing the same thing.

Every person that purchases a ticket should get a survey (and maybe with a “win a pair of tickets to Book of Mormon” incentive on their theatergoing habits, their purchase experience, etc.

And actually, doing so would make the League’s yearly surveying unnecessary . . . and probably more accurate, because the electronic ask could probably reach more people over all seasons, all shows, etc.

These folks are right there . . . just a few clicks away . . . and they have the information at their fingertips that could help us tweak every aspect of what we do in order to make it more profitable for us and more pleasurable for them.

And now look what I’ve done.  My stomach is growling.

But it’s not chips and salsa I want.  It’s information.

Because chips and salsa keeps me satisfied for about two and half hours.

Information can sustain me for a lifetime.

 

(Got a comment? I love ’em, so comment below! Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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– How To Market Your Show with No Money!  Tomorrow night!  3 spots left!  Click here.

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Need some inspiration to complete your script?

A few years ago, my pal Gil over at BroadwayAbridged, told me that November was National Novel Writing Month.  He pointed me to this website that sponsors a challenge/contest to writers to begin and finish a complete novel in 30 days.

Obviously I went crazy for the concept.  It combines my two favorite things:  creativity and deadlines.  (Which, by the way, may just define what a Producer is all about.)

So, of course, I thought, “Let’s make one for scripts!”

And wouldn’t you know it, someone already had!  (Which made my staff very happy, because if I start one more website, they just may change the name on the door to Davenport Website Enterprises).

The folks over at ScriptFrenzy have deemed April (which, believe it or don’t, is right around the corner), Script Writing Month . . . and they’ve started the same sort-of challenge as National Novel Writing Month:  One new script.  30 Days.  100 Pages.

They’ll let you submit any kind of script, including screenplays and TV shows, but we know what we’re focusing on, right?

It’s very Title of Show, isn’t it?

What do you win if you complete this challenge?  The most priceless prize you could imagine.

Pride.  And a brand-spanking new script.

So do it.  Challenge yourself.  Make a deadline.

And make a script.

What’s the worst that could happen?  You miss a couple episodes of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover?  You stay up just a little later?

Or maybe the worst that happens is that the script sucks?

Big deal.

Something sucking is better than nothing doing nothing.

And now, ask yourself what’s the best thing that could happen?

Maybe your script turns into Title of Show . . . or even this.

Sign up for ScriptFrenzy today.

 

(Got a comment? I love ’em, so comment below! Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

——

FUN STUFF:

– Win a spot in our How to Market Your Show with No Money seminar!  Click here.

– Take the Musical Boot Camp!  Click here for info and an application.

– Broadway Road Trip from DC on 4/28.  Click here.

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