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A subtle but notable change will likely greet you the next time you fire up Netflix to check out that much-buzzed-about Umbrella Academy series or return to the nostalgic comforts, tissue in hand, of Daredevil’s first season: a new splash screen, one aimed at invoking that unmistakable theater-seat feeling whenever the curtain rises on a Netflix original.
Netflix revealed the new look and feel of its revised intro splash, a piece of snazzy branding that, despite flashing past in a matter of seconds, took the company a reported two years to develop. As Fast Company’s report additionally notes, the long-gestating new splash nebulously invokes iconic cinematic introductions, like the THX “deep sound” that’s been getting audiences amped ever since it first debuted with Return of the Jedi in 1983.
Netflix says its new intro is reserved solely for its original movies and shows. And, aside from keeping its hands off a tone so popular that no amount of money could ever buy that kind of branding power, Netflix has some sound strategic reasons for hitting a soft reset on the way its welcome splash connects viewers with their streaming experience.
For one thing, Netflix’s content is slowly changing, thanks to forces that lie outside the company’s control. New digital platforms from Apple, WarnerMedia, Disney, and more are due to begin competing against the reigning king of streaming soon, and each represents an unanswered question when it comes to Netflix’s future access to popular licensed content. The debut of Disney+ in particular is a double whammy, since it poses both significant competition for viewers’ time, and a drawdown on all those Disney-owned Marvel shows (for starters) that have lately been dropping like flies. Not to mention the studio's superhero flicks that have become a streaming staple over the past few years.
Netflix continues to carve its own unconventional path through the established Hollywood way of entertaining, especially when it comes to original movies and shows. The platform’s rocky relations with its old-school studio peers on the festival and awards circuit has given Netflix a strong incentive to find a way to fit in, and, as Variety notes, the new splash showed up first alongside critically-acclaimed Netflix originals like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Roma, and The Outlaw King.
Netflix’s famous two-part chime has crept its way so insidiously into pop culture that it’d be a shame if it disappeared now, and the red-letter streaming giant knows it. “And before you ask: no, the sound isn’t changing,” sasses the introductory tweet. Sure, it’s a way to assure fans that Netflix isn’t upsetting the whole apple cart — but it’s also a clever meta-acknowledment of just how deeply that bump-bump beat has burrowed into the wider entertainment zeitgeist.