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Netflix subscribers appear to shun service’s games

Less than 1 percent of Netflix's domestic subscriber base are regularly playing any of its novelty games, according to a report.

Less than 1 percent of Netflix's domestic subscriber base are regularly playing any of its novelty games, according to a report.

The Netflix startup screen appears on a laptop computer. (Photo by Jade87 via Pixabay/Graphic by The Desk)

Streaming service Netflix has made some waves over the last few years as the company seeks to diversify its media offerings with a push into gaming.

But few Netflix subscribers are taking advantage of the company’s games, according to data collated by a software analytics company and reviewed by the financial news channel CNBC.

On Saturday, CNBC reported that Netflix’s games have been downloaded more than 23 million times, but are only used by around 1.7 million subscribers on the regular, according to information from Apptopia. The number of regular users represents less than 1 percent of Netflix’s total global subscriber base of 221 million, CNBC noted.

Netflix’s games are intended to hold subscriber interest in certain franchises while those programs are on hiatus. At the moment, two dozen games from popular franchises like “Stranger Things” are available to play.

Instead of allowing users to game within the Netflix app, the company requires users to download and install each game separately. While they’re free to download, they can only be played with an active Netflix subscription.

Last year, a Netflix executive affirmed that the company’s approach to gaming was largely experimental, and that the streaming service would “try a bunch of things.”

“I would say the eyes that we have on the long-term prize really center more around our ability to create properties that are connected to the universes, the characters, the stories that we’re building,” Greg Peters, the company’s chief operating officer, said on a conference call with investors last year.

While investors might have been patient with Netflix last year, the company may no longer have much room to experiment. In April, Netflix said it lost 200,000 more subscribers than it gained — the first time the company had ever logged a subscriber loss during a financial quarter. The news was followed up three months later with a reported loss of 970,000 paid subscribers. As of July, the company’s stock price was down 70 percent compared to last year.

Analysts now say Netflix was “extremely overvalued” when it was priced around $700 a share, based in part on its lack of diversification. The company was once considered in the same league as Meta (Facebook), Apple and Alphabet (Google) — all companies that have multiple product offerings.

Gaming was seen as one way for Netflix to diversify itself, but customers seem uninterested in playing any one of the 24 novelty games offered on app platforms. Still, some analysts say the company is moving in the right direction as it embraces its growing role as a media company.

Andrew Hare, a research executive with the firm Magid, told CNN Business that he felt Netflix was abandoning its former business strategy as it increasingly leaned in to becoming a media company. He cited Netflix’s recent announcement that an ad-supported tier of service was forthcoming and that the company would crack down on password sharing — once seen as a benefit to its business, now seen as a liability — as proof that it’s starting to act like a traditional media organization.

“Netflix once forced Hollywood deeply out of its comfort zone — they brought streaming to the American living room,” Hare said. “Now it appears some more conventional practices could be what Netflix needs..”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).