Elon Musk attacks Netflix and says ‘woke virus’ to blame for drop in subscribers

·4 min read

Netflix released has a dismal first quarter earnings report that saw shares prices fall by as much as 23 per cent and included the announcement that, for the first time in more than a decade, the streaming giant had lost subscribers.

Promptly putting salt in that very fresh wound was none other than Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who took to his favourite medium late Tuesday night to declare that the cause of the streaming company’s woes could be charted back to their own content, which he described as being virulently too “woke”.

“The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” the richest man in the world tweeted on his personal account in response to a report that detailed how the company had lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of business in 2022.

One user, responding to Mr Musk’s original reply, agreed with the tycoon and said: “Woke mind virus is the biggest threat to the civilization,” to which the billionaire responded: “Yes.”

Another commenter, under the Twitter handle @nichegamer, responded to the SpaceX founder’s tweet and agreed with him that Netflix had jumped on the so-called “woke garbage” train, but that more broadly the entire entertainment industry wasn’t much better.

“Not just Netflix. Movies in general, videogames, tv, it’s all infested with current year trend woke garbage for fear offending green haired freak next to the ban button,” the user wrote, to which Mr Musk replied with a curt: “True”, before adding the request: “Can they please just make sci-fi/fantasy at least *mostly* about sci-fi/fantasy?”

Mr Musk, who is in the midst of a separate digital media duel with Twitter, a company he offered to buy for $43bn which later forced the social media platform to adopt a “poison pill” to protect itself from hostile takeover, began receiving a flood of support in the comments to attempt the same tactic with Netflix.

“You gonna buy Netflix too?” wrote one user, while another, who seemed to align with Mr Musk’s topmost complaint of the server, wrote: “Elon buy netflix next plz, woke nonsense is ruining so many good TV Shows and movies.”

Netflix, by their own admission in their quarterly filings, cited the growing presence of streaming services being offered by traditional entertainment companies, the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing problem of password sharing among households as the main contributors to the company’s poor performance in the most recent quarter and loss of subscribers.

After the streaming giant suspended its services in Russia, executives said in the quarterly report, the company lost 700,000 subscribers.

In his critique of Netflix’s content, Mr Musk, never a stranger to weighing in on matters he wasn’t invited to, appears to be calling into question the streaming giant’s strategy in offering up a greater variety of diverse content, which in recent years has included the presence of more female leads, stories with leading LGBT+ characters and creators and directors for original programming coming from more representative backgrounds.

In 2021, the company released its first comprehensive study of diversity and inclusion in its film and series programming and found that while it had reached gender parity for featuring women in starring roles (more than 50 per cent), there was still work to be done for LGBT+ representation and for portraying characters with disabilities, as well as Latinx/Hispanic communities.

For instance, in Netflix films characters with disabilities make up 11.9 per cent of the cast, compared to 14 per cent in top films and for series, it dropped down to less than 1 per cent.

After that report was released, however, co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos wrote in a blog post that the streaming company had created a $100m creative fund to help offset these imbalances, writing: “We will invest USD $100m over the next five years in a combination of external organisations with a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries, as well as bespoke Netflix programs that will help us to identify, train and provide job placement for up-and-coming talent globally.”

The company’s top bosses also announced in their quarterly report that it is planning to experiment with the introduction of ads on the server.

Reed Hastings, the company’s chief executive, said during an earnings call that Netflix is examining the option of adding advertising in the “next year or two”, which he also noted would allow for a “lower price” of the service.