Netflix touts success of Bright despite 'disconnected' critics

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Jan 22, 2018

Netflix's top executives are praising the positive "consumer response" to Bright, in spite of reviews from critics that weren't exactly glowing.

During Netflix's quarterly earnings interview, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos defended the streaming service's decision to order a sequel to the Will Smith film, citing that a favorable response from consumers was ultimately the biggest contributing factor. "Every internal measurement says it’s one of our most-watched pieces of original content — meaning TV show or film — that we’ve ever had," said Sarandos (via Entertainment Weekly). "If you look at the [audience-generated] reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, you see positive experiences with that film."

The film, Netflix's first big-budget effort, currently holds an 86% audience score on the TomatoMeter, but just a 27% All Critics score. Regarding the negative critical reviews, Sarandos responded by suggesting those may not always be an indicator of more widespread audience appeal. "Critics are an important part of the artistic process, but they’re pretty disconnected from the commercial prospects of a film. The way we look at it is [that] people are watching this movie and loving it, and that is the measure of success. If critics get behind it or don’t, that’s a select group of social media influencers talking to a select audience."

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seconded Sarandos' position, adding that critics largely based in the U.S. are "pretty disconnected from the mass appeal, especially remembering international." In other words, a film that doesn't perform as well domestically could still find international success.

Given that Netflix will never likely release full viewing numbers, we may never know exactly how well Bright performed for subscribers -- but early Nielsen estimates, which track the Netflix usage of a shared household, say that the film pulled in 11 million viewers over the first three days of its release back in December. There's a chance that is not entirely precise, as in the past Netflix has pointed out the inaccuracies between Nielsen estimates for Stranger Things 2 and their actual numbers.

But regardless of metrics, Netflix is clearly confident enough in the success of Bright to not only stand behind the film in the wake of negative critical responses, but to order a follow-up, too. And they can now feel even more confident, seeing that the streamer beat Wall Street estimates by adding 8.3 million new subscribers in Q4 of 2017. Needless to say, Netflix's future looks bright indeed.