Just The Start Of Netflix’s Merchandise Onslaught Is The ‘Stranger Things’ Sweater

A hot new trend is likely to be started by Netflix Inc’s chief executive – Reed Hastings’s garb on a recent video presentation to investors even though he is no fashion icon.

Inspired by the hit show “Stranger Things”, Hastings donned a Christmas sweater grinning sheepishly. The red sweater with white letters and holiday lights, fans of the drama about middle schoolers confronting supernatural events can buy it for $34.99 at Target. More and more fans of its shows are going to want such options, Netflix is betting.

“Stranger Things” is the first sign Netflix dreams of being a multifaceted media empire, while Emmy-winning “Master of None” provided bona fides as a prestige outlet and “House of Cards” established Netflix as a home for premium TV. While the push to make money from the show is just beginning, the streaming-video giant is releasing the second season of “Stranger Things” in 190 countries on Friday.

Deals for “Stranger Things” coffee mugs, action figurines and T-shirts at Hot Topic have been struck by Netflix in addition to the sweater. Netflix has given the show the ultimate sign of a fan sensation in modern Hollywood: a talk show in which fans will discuss the latest episode, the streaming service has also licensed three board games, including versions of Monopoly and Clue.

Two years ago, Hastings wore an ugly sweater featuring the title character of “Bojack Horseman” and the marketing onslaught is a far cry from that time. Only attendees of a company holiday party had access to that pullover.

“We’re learning how to do merchandising,” Hastings said this month on the webcast. “We’ve got some amazing displays and amazing materials out at Target.”

Its ambitions in consumer products has been downplayed as little more than an experiment by Netflix. Yet, at the first sign of success, experiments at Netflix turn into priorities. Just look at “Stranger Things” season one.

The initial script by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, was rejected by every network in town. Rather than the childlike wonder of a show inspired by “The Goonies” and “E.T.”, Netflix at the time was viewed as a home for dark, gritty dramas.

Before committing to spend additional money on marketing, Netflix was waiting to see how fans responded.

And Netflix earned its very first Super Bowl commercial as the show quickly became a sensation.

Hunt for family and science fiction shows with memorable characters or worlds that can live on in more forms is being conducted by the company inspired by the global popularity of “Stranger Things”.

In what was its first acquisition, to develop TV show and movie properties for fanboys and fangirls, Netflix bought comic book publisher Millarworld earlier this year. And the first executive in charge of licensing shows for books, comics and toys for the company was Jess Richardson, formerly of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

“Jess is a big-time player,” said Jim Silver, chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of industry publication Toys, Tots, Pets & More. “My assumption is Netflix is very serious.”

While some investors and analysts believe that the company is spending too much money, the potential new sources of revenue will boost Netflix in their eyes.

So long as Netflix adds subscribers at a healthy clip, investors have previously cheered this spending. And some of the pressure on the company to beat subscriber forecasts every quarter would be reduced by opening up new sources of sales.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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