Netflix movie strategy: watch in streaming, not in theaters

Ahead of Tudum 2022, IndieWire spoke with Netflix CMO Marian Lee about its cinematic marketing strategy, “Squid Game,” and being where the fans are.

Netflix fans are about to have a busy weekend, and so is Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Marian Lee. Saturday, the streaming giant Tudum Fan Event will quintuple its size and become global.

Tudum started in January 2020 as an in-person event in a market, São Paulo, Brazil. The Covid pandemic has disrupted all of that in-person, but on September 24, the event is back – and it’s oversized.

Named after the streaming service‘s startup sound, Tudum is now made up of five events from around the world, offering “more content, more shows and movies, more talent”, and yes, “more news to be announced,” as Lee said. in a phone interview with IndieWire.

Tudum is Netflix’s D23 and its Disney+ Day in one. It’s not quite San Diego Comic-Con, but Tudum is a solid, controlled addition to existing fan conventions. “I wouldn’t say we don’t watch these events, but we’re really trying to put our own stamp on something,” Lee said. “What’s really unique about us here? Over the past 10 years, we’ve really grown this huge library of intellectual property and franchises. »

These include the mega-hits ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Bridgerton’, ‘Squid Game’ and ‘The Witcher’, all of which will be represented at Tudum 2022. “We are really trying to bring all these fandoms together, celebrate them, give give them a way to connect directly with talent,” she said. “We could launch things that they’ve never seen before, all kinds of exclusives.”

Putting it all together can cause internal “chaos” for his team, Lee acknowledged: “It’s kind of like ‘A Beautiful Mind’ mapping it out on a wall.”

“Squid Game” Season 1.


“Squid Game” remains Netflix’s biggest global hit, which is why this year’s Tudum kicks off in Korea, where the series originated. A show like this will sell out for the upcoming Season 2, but launching a new series is where Lee’s marketing team can really shine. Even viral sensations can use a helping hand; Lee’s toolkit includes a BA in Psychology from barnard College at Columbia University and eight years as a senior Spotify marketing executive.

The South Korean hit, which amassed 1.65 billion hours watched in its first 28 days, “definitely had some marketing,” Lee said. In other words, the success of “Squid Game” didn’t just come from word of mouth. “There was marketing all over the world. Now was [the viewership level] unexpected in certain markets? Like, did we think it was going to resonate as much as it did in the States? she says. “Certainly not at first.”

But Netflix’s Korean marketing team laid the “really impressive groundwork,” Lee told us, including full builds at top local stores. There was “bespoke marketing all over Asia,” she continued, and when the show really started to take off, Lee’s UCAN team (USA and Canada, which she ran at the time) stepped up its efforts to “catch the fire”. on this one.”

And it was very hot. “That’s when you saw created moments, activations and costumes everywhere,” she said.

Activation of “The Gray Man” at Comic-Con in San Diego.

Hitchhiker Pictures for Netflix

In conversation, you can tell how Lee digs a good activation. One of his recent favorites had to do with “The Gray Man,” the big-budget (especially for Netflix) spy vs. spy flick starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans that had a theatrical run a week before its release. premiere on the SVOD service (which will soon add an AVOD level).

At Comic-Con this summer, Netflix created an experience that gave fans the experience of being Six (Gosling) and Lloyd Hansen (Evans). In San Diego, fans boarded a fake tram that crashed into a fake building, much like a “Grey Man” scene that unfolded in downtown Prague. They took on challenges to get from car to car before escaping up the tram, with subwoofers, rumbles and jumps that enhance the episode.

“The Gray Man,” which is Netflix’s fourth most popular film ever, is a franchise that will expand with a sequel and spin-off series. For the movie(s), Lee is pretty happy with the brief widescreen option, but that’s not her preference.

“Netflix is ​​where we want fans to watch movies they love or sit down with their family to watch a new movie,” she said. And so far so good about how Netflix markets the movies – that is, doesn’t do much marketing at all.

“From a marketing perspective, what we’re doing is different from the big studios” that are “trying to sell a ticket,” Lee said. “But, again, we’re trying to build anticipation and excitement for our [movies] so people can finally watch them on Netflix. [We’re] not focused on getting them into theaters at short notice… for (award show) qualifiers. For me, our fans are on Netflix and that’s what they prefer.

An enlarged view of Netflix

A zoomed-in view of Netflix’s “Gray Man” activation at SDCC.

Hitchhiker Pictures for Netflix

Tudum Korea kicks off at 11 a.m. KST on Saturday, which is 10 p.m. ET on Friday (or 7 p.m. PT). The “Global Fan Event” begins with Part 1 at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT on Saturday. Part 2 starts 90 minutes later.

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