On Sunday April 16, 2023, Netflix tried to host a live reunion finale for their hit reality series Love is Blind. While the streaming service dipped its toe into live streaming its content with Chris Rock’s recent comedy special Selective Outrage, this reunion has been Netflix’s first true test of their ability to broadcast live TV. A test that they miserably failed.
When Love is Blind fans tried to tune into the finale at the designated time, they were met with an error screen and vague updates from Netflix about when they’d be able to watch the reunion. Over an hour later, some were strangely able to watch the reunion, but most still didn’t have access to it through their accounts. Eventually, Netflix tweeted out that they were going to just record the special and drop it as soon as they could, but by then many had already given up on watching it for the night.
After spending so much time and money pushing the binge-watch model for TV, it’s kind of funny to see Netflix struggling to find ways to stay relevant as people embrace appointment TV again. Shows like House of the Dragon, The Last of Us, Succession, and even WandaVision a couple years ago show that people are still interested in weekly releases and the “watercooler” chatter that comes from them. Netflix is one of the only streaming services that still releases all episodes of its new shows at once, with only a few reality series like The Great British Bake Off and Love is Blind following a weekly release.
Most streaming services other than Netflix have a live TV component. Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ have started streaming live sports events, Hulu has a live TV add-on, HBO Max and Disney+ still have cable channels that they use to air some of their content to cable subscribers, Paramount+ streams live sports and news to its subscribers as does Peacock in addition to new Saturday Night Live episodes. At this point, we might as well just have cable again, but that’s a conversation for another time.
If Netflix was the first streaming service to try streaming live in addition to its other content, having technical difficulties on its second attempt might be more excusable. But when live TV has existed for decades, and other streaming services have been doing live TV in different capacities, without this level of issues, it begs the question of how long Netflix will survive as-is. Netflix may have popularized streaming and kick-started the era of TV we find ourselves in, but if they can’t handle the shifts that have been happening across other streaming services, they could become as obsolete as Blockbuster.
Between this fiasco, canceling most of their own series after one or two seasons, raising prices, and cracking down on password sharing, they’re making it hard for loyal customers to continue to support them. Maybe if they had followed HBO Max’s lead (I can’t believe I’m saying this) and simply filmed the reunion earlier and made it available online at a specific time like HBO Max does with HBO series, then they still could have had their big appointment event and avoided this mess.