TO UNDERSTAND NETFLIX, forget the mullet-haired Joe Exotic and his antics in “Tiger King”. Think instead of the bearded El Profesor and the other rogues who populate “Money Heist”, the streaming firm’s exhilarating Spanish-language crime drama about stealing €2.4bn ($2.6bn) from the national mint in Madrid. Like the hijackers, Netflix is taking advantage of the lockdown in many countries to print money. Like El Profesor, the company’s goateed boss, Reed Hastings, is usually a step ahead of everyone. And like the heist’s perpetrators, it has always had one golden rule: stick to the plan. So far it has pulled it off. As one analyst puts it, Netflix is as much a household essential in the covid-19 age as Clorox. Its market value, at more than $190bn, has for the time being risen above Disney’s. Yet, as usual with Netflix (and with “Money Heist”), just when you think you can breathe easily, trouble starts.
Netflix’s story has had a Tinseltown quality to it since its founding in 1997. Even in its early, DVD-dispatching days Netflix won its subscribers’ hearts and minds—and so their wallets—with plentiful content and great customer service. In contrast to Blockbuster, it had a “long tail” of tens of thousands of DVDs for all tastes. It made...
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