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The Netflix Effect

Via @NetflixUk on Twitter

The Netflix Effect; is the phenomenon of something being catapulted into cultural relevance overnight as a result of millions binge-watching a show via a streaming platform. The immense social and economic influence of this phenomenon makes it a marketing team’s wet dream. It is essentially the new ‘it-girl’ digital solution.

We’re unpacking three examples – intentional or otherwise – of these cultural explosions in the digital space. See the Netflix effect in action and the resulting dollar bill domino effect that will make your digital marketing services team lose their tiny minds.

So tighten your helmet because the DRS has been activated, you’re in checkmate and we’ve only just started running up this hill. (you’ll appreciate these puns a little more as you read on!)


A melodrama at 300 kilometres per hour.

That is what Netflix’s Drive to Survive promises viewers season after season. An amalgamation of money, politics and sport, the behind-the-scenes of Formula 1 was a seemingly untapped source of the juiciest drama ripe for reality tv picking. Extravagance, danger, European playboys and Daddy’s money. (yeah, we’re looking at you Lance Stroll) Oh My!

Drive to Survive is the brainchild of Formula 1’s parent company Liberty Media and was pitched to Netflix with the specific intention of boosting the league’s digital presence, and converting Formula One agnostics to the fanbase. It meant giving up access to the previously well-guarded behind-the-scenes, from where, until recently even the drivers were not allowed to share content.

But what’s in it for the sport?

As it turns out:

An entire generation.

In 2019 F1 was struggling to captivate a younger audience and just 14% of spectators were under 25 years old.

“It was no secret that F1 had been struggling for years to attract younger fans and females especially.” – James Allen President, Motorsport Network.

With the release of Season 1 of Drive to Survive in 2019, at the beginning of a global economic crisis, Formula One’s popularity began to thrive. This sport managed to tap into the Netflix Effect and take the fast lane back to pop and youth culture.

In the span of just three short seasons, F1 boasted a whopping 50% improvement in brand health between 2017 and 2021. Controversy amongst purists, curse words, bitter feuds and all, Drive to Survive, has proved one of the most successful brand awareness campaigns in recent sporting history.

Captivating its most diverse audience yet, the sport has achieved a 177% uplift in female viewers since the show was released. 77% of all new viewers who dove into the F1 world in the past two years were aged between 16 and 35.

The United States has gained a second Grand Prix race after US Grand Prix attendance numbers increased from 264,000 in 2018 to 400,000 in 2021. The Netflix Effect has completely won over a country, historically ambivalent towards the aristocratic European carting sport, favouring the attainable Indy Car and NASCAR leagues instead.

The online conversation around F1 is now largely driven by the 18-24 demographic, accounting for almost 40% of mentions in the US. This is closely followed by 25-35, who make up an additional 25% of the audience. The Netflix Effect is amplified by social media with Drive to Survive garnering 49 million followers with 40% growth annually. Formula One is viral.

The 2021 Motorsport Network Survey found that Formula One fans were more willing to spend. Between 2017 and 2021 supporters of F1’s willingness to pay rose between 20% and 65%. Despite the fiscal effects of Drive to Survive being interrupted by a global pandemic resulting in a huge financial loss to the sport and its parent company, Formula One has bounced back, their $2.002 billion income in 2019 has increased to $2.136 billion in 2021.

Netflix has become the very well-planned digital solution to Formula One’s generational woes, and further yet, they managed to tap into the Netflix Effect right before we all caught on to what was happening here.


In 1985 Kate Bush released “Running up that Hill”, and the song was a hit – but it failed to top the charts… that is until this year when Netflix featured the song in season four of “Stranger Things”. A season that garnered 781.04 million hours viewed in just two and a half weeks. The songs feature on this show has boosted Bush to achieving her first UK No. 1 in 44 years and earned her first ever US Top 10.

It is through this example that we see social media, in particular, TikTok acting as a megaphone to the infamous ‘Netflix Effect’. The hashtag #RunningUpThatHill is viewed close to a billion times on TikTok and over two million videos created using the ‘sound’. Kate Bush is a household name once more and, given a good head for business 37 years ago, the singer is estimated to have earned over 3.3 million AUD in royalties in the past month alone.

So beyond a great strategy, what do you need to bask in the Netflix Effect glory? In short, just a touch of dumb luck. Stranger Things has been bestowed with multiple awards for its music and has resurged hits vintage bops before, but only Kate Bush has reaped awards to this degree. Kate Bush has experienced the Netflix Effect.

Image via


In the height of lockdown, when one month was indistinguishable from another and binge-ing 8 hours of TV was called ‘Tuesday,’ Netflix made a gamble. They decided a planet of bored-out-of-their-minds-viewers needed more… chess.

The Queens Gambit is a raunchy TV drama that opened our eyes to the cut-throat, sexist and strangely sexy world that is the World Chess Championship. The Netflix Original was a huge success and found its way to the screens of 62 million households in the first 28 days after its release.

Just 10 days after its release eBay searches for chess sets increased by 273% according to UK’s Metro newspaper. In November of the year alone, online chess site added 2.8 million members, and Goliath Games a European toy retailer saw chess sales spike in November and December, a 1,100% rise from the year before.

The female protagonist reached women and girls alike, as the show not only impacted sales in the chess world but tackled prevailing gender stereotypes in this game. Even today, the World Chess Federation lists 1,721 grandmasters worldwide, only sixty of whom are women. Since the release of the Queen’s Gambit 27% of incoming members were female an increase from 22% pre-release.

For a moment, women everywhere became fixated on a ‘man’s’ sport. When Netflix told the stories of the women who came before them, a space was made at the chessboard.


So if binge-able content is the ticket to cultural relevance, and, granted the success and exposure of the aforementioned examples, is it safe to assume that Netflix may be the best advertiser on earth? Or one of the most powerful digital solutions available? If so, how do we begin to navigate the ‘dumb luck’ aspect of ‘going viral’, or the price tag attached to a Netflix feature? If you’re providing digital marketing services and are tasked with bringing a European aristocratic sport to the US, or catapulting a 1950s song to the top of the charts or even selling moves on a chessboard, one thing is certain: Video content reigns supreme.

Look out for our next blog where we’ll take a deep dive into the value of a brand awareness campaign – and unpack just how much a set of eyes wandering across your product may set you back.



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