Several major studios are considering abandoning Georgia as a film production location in light of Georgia’s recent heartbeat bill. If implemented, the bill would ban the destruction of the life of an unborn child once a heartbeat is detectable.
Netflix has come out as the strongest voice against the bill, their chief content officer stating that Netflix “will ‘rethink [its] whole investment in Georgia’” if the law goes into effect.
But as Netflix attempts to strong-arm the state of Georgia, they may want to take time for some self-evaluation.
Near the end of 2018 Netflix had racked up $8.34 billion in debt. To combat this, the company announced plans to raise another $2 billion in debt in order to continue producing original content.
But are Netflix Originals even worth such costs? As some have observed, many of them are not even very good. Yes, I watched “Set It Up” and “To All the Boys I Loved Before,” and they were exactly what I expected them to be: stilted and enormously cheesy. And let’s not even talk about “The Unicorn Store.”
In essence, Netflix Originals are great if you need something to watch when you’re enormously bored. They’re the kind of movies you watch in the back of the car on the final leg of a nine-hour road trip, or when you need something on in the background while doing homework.
Instead of original content, Netflix’s audience appears to love the reruns that have long been a mainstay of the company. When Netflix considered pulling "Friends" last fall when WarnerMedia upped the price of continued licensing, Netflix fans lashed out, many of them noting that "Friends" was the only reason they continued to subscribe to Netflix. In the end, Netflix forked out $100 million to keep the show for another year and appease their viewers.
And it isn’t just "Friends." Fans are equally concerned about the possibility of losing "The Office."
The opinion of fans makes itself known in data, which reveals that Netflix is heavily dependent on reruns. With “The Office,” “Friends,” and “Parks and Recreation” leading their most watched shows for last year. There wasn't a Netflix Original in the top five.
Yes, there are voices expressing optimism over Netflix’s future, and they may well be right. But that does not change the fact that they’re deep in debt and paying a steep price to keep their most popular programs.
Given their current position, leaving the Peach State might not be very peachy for Netflix, especially considering the perks the state offers.
As Kyle Smith pointed out in the National Review, “Netflix is in Georgia in the first place only because of the state’s ruthless capitalism: Tax breaks for big business and right-to-work policies.” He goes on to point out that taking a movie out of Georgia could mean taking millions out of the movie’s budget, which could make the difference in whether or not the movie gets made.
On top of the cost Netflix would incur if they choose to leave Georgia, the announcement that they would reconsider their investment with Georgia drew immediate calls for boycott from pro-life leaders. As they take their financial situation into account, Netflix may want to think carefully about how serious these boycott threats are. Is the company willing to put themselves in an even more precarious position in order to virtue-signal to abortion advocates, or will the real cost of pulling out of Georgia reveal their threat to be nothing but smoke and mirrors?
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to "Supernatural" as a Netflix Original series. It has been updated to correct that error.