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Netflix reviving dying rom-com genre to net more audience

More than 80 million accounts have watched one or more of the Summer of Love films

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MUMBAI: It’s not unusual for streaming giant Netflix to create market buzz with newly launched originals. But since the beginning of this year, the platform has stimulated excitement by reviving a dying genre - romantic comedy which was once an integral part of Hollywood’s yearly box-office strategy went through slow death after mid 2000s. Set it Up, Kissing Booth stirred the wheel in first half of 2018 and the Netflix original rom coms followed by these two indicated the platform’s less-hyped treasure. Now, after Q3 earnings, it has validated the notion. At least one of its “Summer of Love” rom-com has been watched by more than 80 million of its subscribers from around the world over the past few months.

From the late 1990s to mid 2000s, rom coms had been worth a fortune for producers. Few of the popular ones even cracked and topped $100 million at box office. Unfortunately, the fall began around 2012-13 and the movies from this genre gradually disappeared from top box office performers. The audience stopped watching and major studios stopped making mid-budget movies.

With the emergence of streaming platforms, the traditional way of watching movies has also changed. Thanks to the change, the genre has found a new home outside of the theatre. As part of its “Summer of Love” original movies, Netflix released Set It Up, The Kissing Booth, Like Father, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. While the first one has ignited the reputation of Netflix as the “saviour of the genre”, the platform has singled out the last one of its “most viewed original films ever with strong repeat viewing”.

Considerably, in most of the rom-coms from the platform there are no star casts and mostly fresh faces. As most of the once popular rom-com stars got too reluctant to work for the genre, it also became harder for studios to pull the audience to theatres. But, this problem does not trouble the streaming giant owing to its loyal subscribers who don’t yearn for a star-studded cast.

Although the streaming giant is blamed for increasing the production cost in Hollywood, the rom-com movies can be made at comparatively moderate budgets. The inexpensive, easy to produce movies will also help to increase its movie library which has been often described as dull compared to other streaming platforms. Among the craziness of spectacle action, sequels, sci-fis, this is an easy stint to provide viewers to enjoy something different.

Rom-coms are also perfectly suited for “Netflix and chill” in the comfort of home with minimum engagement, short time span to finish a story. However, from all the plot lines of major hits of this genre, it seems to target young audience for whom OTT platforms are the primary source of entertainment.

“As part of our Summer of Love and building on the success of Set It Up and The Kissing Booth, we released original films Like Father (starring Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer in a daughter-father dramedy), Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (starring Stranger Things’ Barb, Shannon Purser) and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which is one of our most viewed original films ever with strong repeat viewing. More than 80 million accounts have watched one or more of the Summer of Love films globally and we are already in production for the next set of original rom-coms for our members,” Netflix said in a letter to shareholders after Q3 earnings.

Though Netflix does not share exact viewership numbers ever, a Netflix executive from the company said they were able to see that people around the world had been watching a lot of rom-coms in their catalogue according to a media report. Hence as people enjoyed the genre and there were very few players, the streaming giant utilised the chance properly. Moreover, with the 80 million statistics, Netflix has proved global audience still love to watch classic romances.

At a time when Netflix is targeting the Indian market widely, its movie catalogue has two Indian romantic films. After releasing Love Per Square Foot, the original rom-com, they added Kuch Bheege Alfaz produced by Yoodle Films later in the library. Both the films worked well and created high social media buzz. The “Summer of Love” was not only about few months, it is very clear that Netflix has committed to its new found treasure for the long term.

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