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‘Stranger Things’ Gets Season 4, Its Creators Get a Deal, and Netflix Faces the Content Conundrum

As the streamer's most successful providers of original content, did the Duffer Bros. get one of those nine-figure deals Netflix is handing out like candy?

Stranger Things

The Duffer Brothers on th set of “Stranger Things”

Tina Rowden/Netflix

Today, Netflix announced that “Stranger Things” creators Matt and Ross Duffer signed a multi-year overall deal (terms not disclosed) to create films and television series for Netflix, with “Stranger Things” Season 4 being the first. Netflix dropped a teaser for that season alongside the announcement of the Duffer Brothers deal, but it doesn’t say much other than Season 4 exists. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the “Stranger Things” franchise continue in a spinoff capacity.

The Netflix-Duffer Brothers deal is the latest in a string of major-talent pickups for the streaming giant. Netflix signed nine-figure deals with Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy (whose “The Politician” premiered on Netflix September 27) last year, and the company also inked a nine-figure contract with “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in August. In the overheated TV landscape, brand-name creators are as good as top-flight IP.

For Netflix, a Duffer Brothers deal seems self evident: Though Netflix remains stingy with empirical evidence, “Stranger Things” is quite possibly its most popular original series. With six Emmy wins and 30 nominations, “Stranger Things” has also been key to Netflix’s award season success. The “Stranger Things” fanbase has continued to grow, so it was expected that Netflix would do everything in its power to keep the Duffer Brothers with the company.

The announcement came after an undeniably rough few months for the industry’s leading streaming service. Netflix’s stock has spiraled downward since the company’s middling Q2 earnings report, which revealed that the streaming service lost 126,000 domestic subscribers and failed to meet all other growth expectations.

Seeking Alpha financial columnist Michael Henage discussed Netflix’s stock woes in a Monday analysis that centered on the service’s dwindling library of legacy content as companies pull their content to bolster their own libraries — most notably, Netflix staples “The Office”in 2020 and “Friends” in 2021. “Seinfeld” remains a bright spot in Netflix’s shrinking sitcom slate; that show will begin exclusively streaming on Netflix in 2021, although that five-year deal cost $500 million.

Crucially, Henage noted that Netflix’s subscriber issues began even before the release of the much-hyped Disney+ and Apple TV+. Both will offer a variety of high-budget, highly anticipated shows, which could lure viewers (and their wallets) away from Netflix. Next year, HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock each promise to have original series and over 10,000 hours of legacy content. Are viewers are dropping their Netflix subscriptions because the service doesn’t have enough content to justify its cost? The introduction of new competitors will make things even more difficult for Netflix.

The legacy-content conundrum — WarnerMedia reportedly spent at least several hundred million dollars to secure “The Big Bang Theory” on HBO Max — is why many streaming services have pledged to double down on original content. “Stranger Things” Season 4 fits the bill, but while that series and the Duffer Brothers pickup are clear-cut wins for Netflix, the company will need much more to reverse its fortunes.

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