Just a few days ago, Netflix hosted its first ever Geeked Week, a five-day virtual event showcasing snippets, trailers and interviews with cast members from some of its biggest films and TV shows.
In addition, the streaming giant has also revealed together with game developer CD Projekt Red it will be co-hosting WitcherCon, a convention dedicated to both companies' adaptations of The Witcher.
Netflix never used to be big on hosting its own events – but these two new cons showcase how the company is willing to take a step back from collaborative events such as San Diego Comic-Con for unveiling news and announcements.
The timing is certainly right. Now that events must have a digital-first approach, more and more companies are starting to take charge of how and when they announce things, rather than adhering to the deadlines of major conventions.
As the biggest streaming service on the market, it makes sense that Netflix would be the first company to break out with a standalone event. We’ve seen mobile companies pull out of MWC and game studios bypass E3 – so it was only a matter of time before studios and streaming services got in on the action.
However, did this move actually work in Netflix’s favour? Well, the company still has some things to learn if it is looking to challenge one of the biggest entertainment events in the world.
First of all, five days was far too long of a commitment for what Netflix actually revealed. The streaming service stretched out the event across five three-hour long streams, and often that time felt like it was in desperate need of filling.
For example, the Stranger Things announcement was very minimal – just some new cast announcements and a general update that filming was still ongoing (something most fans already know). The majority of the time was then dedicated to showing off footage of a pop-up immersive event based around the show that wasn't even selling tickets anymore.
Comic-Con gives attendees a fixed slot for panels – and that’s all the time they have for news and reveals. There’s then the added benefit of reaching a wider audience that don’t necessarily follow a specific brand’s channels. For example, I know that when I’d attend MCM London, I’d happily wander into a big show’s panel if I had some time to kill, even if I wasn't a committed fan.
Most of the news Netflix revealed simply wasn’t big enough to make a splash in the headlines. Some of the biggest IPs that led the event – Stranger Things, The Witcher, Lucifer – all got news, but nothing majorly of note. If you’re going to lead with these names in your advertising, then it’s wise to deliver something special.
To give Netflix some credit, the lack of news can be put down to the pandemic. Many shows were behind what was originally scheduled, and had these delays not happened, there may have been way more to announce. News for The Witcher was also likely held back for WitcherCon, taking place in just a few weeks time.
But if you know you don't have much to announce, then why commit to a five-day, 15-hour spectacular?
Netflix isn’t the only company to take control of how its own news is announced - other big companies have skipped on other major conventions and put on their own alternative event. For some, it’s been a massive success. Gaming giant Sony hasn’t been attending the one of the biggest games events in the world – E3 – since 2019.
Instead, Sony hosts its own State of Play livestreams throughout the year, with a plethora of trailers and announcements for different games and products – many of which are exclusive to PlayStation. In 2020, the brand revealed the PlayStation 5 online and racked up nearly three million viewers during the live broadcasts across YouTube and Twitch.
Back in the entertainment world, Warner Bros. and DC Comics managed to pull off a very successful event in DC Fandome. This virtual con delivered the first full-length trailers for The Batman and the Justice League Snyder Cut, an announcement of two big game titles, and a poster reveal for the upcoming movie, The Flash.
Taking place over 24 hours, it also included sections where fans could take part in cosplay competitions, a whole section that was child-friendly, and broadcasts in nine different languages to be accessible for fans from all across the globe.
Not only did DC Fandome hold their event in a short window of time which was easier for audience attention spans, it put fans at the forefront. Fandoms are the life and soul of conventions - with whole sections dedicated to cosplay competitions, panels with industry experts and even meet-ups between attendees.
Perhaps for major events in the world of entertainment to take off there needs to be some level of interaction – whether that’s digitally or in-person. Netflix did this to some degree - encouraging Twitch streamers to co-stream the event on their own channels. However, more established conventions often go above and beyond what is on the stream itself.
It may be that Geeked Week was a test run for future events. We know that Netflix is developing N-Plus, which is some sort of social media/content hub that will either be directly embedded in to the platform itself, or will allow users to use their existing credentials to access addition information about their favourite shows and films.
We don’t know when N-Plus is due to launch, but we could easily see this tie in with any future conventions that Netflix has planned – including Geeked Week. It could also be possible that we see a physical event for Geeked Week when the pandemic subsides.
Huge tech companies no longer need big conventions to make announcements. However, Netflix hasn’t yet managed to nail the timing or content needed to challenge the behemoth that is Comic-Con.
Geeked Week really has the potential to be something special – but only if Netflix is able to hold its nerve and save those trailers and release dates to drop exclusively during the con.
You can read more about how Ofcom may be reigning in streaming services here.
What I’m watching this week
The third MCU live-action series, Loki, is now rolling out its first episodes on Disney+. The series takes place in an alternative branch of time, which the God of Mischief has caused himself during the events of Avengers: Endgame.
Loki takes inspiration from crime thrillers, and isn’t afraid to get a little weird. Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson take the leading roles – and both bounce off each other perfectly. The first episode is out now, and the rest will release every Wednesday. You can read my review of the first two episodes here.