Released in its entirety on November 4, 2016 and reported to have cost around £100m to produce, The Crown is one of the most ambitious projects that Netflix has taken on to date.
A 10 part original series (essentially a biopic) about Queen Elizabeth II, recounting her life from the royal wedding in 1947, right up to the present day, the show has been celebrated by all sides of the media, frequently being described as “faultless”, “magnificent”, “engaging” and “gripping”.
So what do we know so far about The Crown’s first few weeks on the service? Firstly, amongst our sample of Netflix users, The Crown was the top streamed title on Netflix in November 2016, showing that the release has been heavily streamed amongst users. But what was driving users to the show? Sheer curiosity or perhaps something else?
Netflix’s marketing of The Crown
30% of Netflix users said they watched The Crown because it was recommended to them by someone, or simply because it looked and sounded interesting. However, a third of users also said that they had watched the series because it featured in the ‘recently added’ section of the service, and half also claimed that external advertising had influenced their viewing choice.
It is clear that Netflix were determined for this to succeed – not only was the show expensive to produce, but campaign spend across all media for The Crown was one of the highest of 2016, ensuring that the investment would not be appreciated by just users, but also reach and appeal to a wider audience.
Finally, in November, compared with the rest of 2016, a higher proportion of respondents say they signed up to Netflix in order to watch exclusive content not available elsewhere. However, the jury is still out as to whether The Crown itself was driving this. Early indications are that it attracted existing users to view rather than acted as a drive to sign up new ones.
Who was watching The Crown and why?
In its first month of release, the demographic profile of those watching The Crown has shown some interesting results. Firstly, a fifth of the show’s viewers are aged 55+. This is a slightly higher proportion of older users watching than for Netflix content overall and also in contrast to new releases such as Stranger Things, which primarily attracted a younger audience within its first few weeks of release. It does highlight the strength of Netflix’s commissioning policy, allowing them to target different types of viewers by commissioning shows with differing demographic appeal.
When asked why they started watching the title in the first place, respondents mostly indicated that it was because they had a general interest in the Queen or the Monarchy or because they wanted to find out more about this period of time in British history. But what is remarkable is how few people said they started watching the title because of the A-list cast that has been employed (Claire Foy and Matt Smith both star), or because of the quality of the production for the title, further demonstrating that this title was perhaps designed to target an audience of lighter viewers less engaged by marquee names and more by the program content.
Was The Crown a success?
Defining a success when talking about Netflix titles can be difficult. If we look at overall content ratings, The Crown performed well. When asked to rate the show on a scale of 1 to 10, The Crown achieved an average score of 9.0 which is higher than all Netflix titles that score an average of 8.7. Compared to other recent celebrated titles, such as Stranger Things, Making a Murderer and Narcos, The Crown achieves relatively similar levels of satisfaction.
Furthermore, when we look at whether viewers are likely to recommend this title to others (again on a scale of 1 to 10), it scores in line with Netflix Originals on average, but slightly lower when compared to recent releases. So in terms of satisfaction and recommendation, The Crown can be called a success, but perhaps more was expected from this title, given the scale of investment into the show.
Overall though, The Crown can be considered a success. Critics and viewers have both celebrated the show, and early data is indicating that the title is both driving viewing as well as appealing to a lighter viewing audience demographic for Netflix. Furthermore, exposure for the SVOD service has also increased due to positive press attention, a Golden Globe win for the Best TV Drama and increased marketing activity. Content producers like the BBC and ITV must have taken notice at the bigger financial bets Netflix are prepared to make to increase their audience shares, which must ultimately leave them slightly nervous about the future, and fortifying Netflix’s position as a serious threat to such traditional players in the media landscape.