By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
Dating is hard. But at least it doesn’t require you to woo your beloved while dressed as a dolphin and they’re in full makeup, wearing a scarecrow outfit.
Unless you’re a contestant on Netflix’s new series,”Sexy Beasts.”
More fever dream than dating competition, “Sexy Beasts” is the latest reality series from the streamer. The show, which debuts July 21, released its first trailer on Wednesday, and the short clip is already getting a lot of attention.
On its surface, “Sexy Beasts” seems pretty straightforward, with those looking for love going out on blind dates. The twist is that the contestants don’t know what their would-be love match looks like since they’re all in makeup and costumes, decked out as everything from demons to aliens to insects.
So if you’re looking for a show where a panda asks a bull, “do you have health insurance?” while drinking red wine, Netflix has you covered.
Now, all of this may seem incredibly silly, or just downright bizarre. Still, this series in which a beaver and a cheetah go skeet shooting as part of a getting-to-know-you date, is integral to Netflix’s business strategy and growth plans in the streaming marketplace.
Netflix’s wants to be the go-to source for how people watch entertainment. The company wants consumers to spend time and subscription dollars on its service rather than traditional TV, video games and even, well, sleep. This is why it has an extensive library that includes award-winning films such as “Mank,” steamy TV series like “Bridgerton,” comedy specials like Bo Burnham’s “Inside” and documentaries like “My Octopus Teacher,” which won an Oscar this year. This is also why the service made a deal with Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin, on Monday.
So Netflix isn’t going for a niche audience, it wants to provide everything for everyone. And as ridiculous as it might seem, reality TV shows like “Sexy Beasts” are a big component of that.
The company has already found success in the reality genre thanks to last year’s break-out hit, “Love Is Blind.” The dating show, in which contestants don’t set eyes upon each other until after they get engaged, was a social media sensation before the pandemic. Netflix announced soon after its premiere that it and another reality competition, “The Circle,” had both been renewed for two more seasons.
“Simply put, we know unscripted programming is hugely popular on linear TV, and has been that way for a long time,” Brandon Riegg, Netflix’s vice president of nonfiction series and comedy specials, told CNN Business last year. “I think in our efforts to provide that sort of proper breadth and depth of options to the members, it makes sense to have unscripted programming be a part of that.”
The other thing about reality TV: it can be addictive, and having a series in which viewers cannot look away is vital to Netflix’s bottom line right now.
With nearly 210 million subscribers worldwide, the company is still the king of streaming but rivals like Disney+ are catching up and Netflix’s subscriber growth slowed last quarter. Attention-grabbing series that get new viewers to sign up and longtime members to stay on the service are essential to keeping Netflix atop of the streaming pyramid.
And if there’s a series that’s more attention-grabbing than “Sexy Beasts,” well, I’d really like to see it.