Netflix Doubles Down on ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘Squid Game’ Spin-Offs

Netflix Doubles Down on ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘Squid Game’ Spin-Offs

Netflix’s subscriber numbers have been a bit Upside Down lately, with the streaming giant shedding customers last quarter instead of adding them.

But one thing that’s still worked well for Netflix is “Stranger Things,” the hit sci-fi horror series that just wrapped up its fourth season. The latest installment surpassed 1 billion hours watched, making it the second-most-viewed title in Netflix history. The show dominates the cultural zeitgeist like few others, with the ability to send singer Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” near the top of the charts 37 years after its release.

So it’s no surprise that Netflix is now doubling down on “Stranger Things,” planning a spinoff series developed by the show’s creators Matt and Ross Duffer. On Wednesday, the streaming giant announced the Duffer brothers launched a new production company called Upside Down Pictures, which is working on several projects for Netflix, including the “Stranger Things” spinoff.

Details are light, but the Duffer brothers have said the new show will be a ”1,000% different” than the flagship series, one that’s unlikely to be centered on main characters Eleven (played by Millie Bobbie Brown) or Steve (Joe Keery). Netflix and the Duffer brothers also confirmed a forthcoming stage play “set within the world and mythology” of “Stranger Things.”

The announcements show that even at a time when Netflix is slashing staff to reign in costs, the company is investing more money into its fan-favorite franchises. The streaming service is making a reality TV series based on “Squid Game,” which Netflix claims will offer the biggest cash prize for a TV competition but presumably less death. That’s in addition to a second season of the Korean dystopian hit.

The company’s expansion into gaming includes a host of mobile titles based on popular series like “The Queen’s Gambit” and “La Casa de Papel.” “Stranger Things” has already gotten the video game treatment.

Building upon proven blockbusters is, of course, not a new idea in Hollywood. But the streaming wars have put the strategy on steroids. Just take a look at Disney Plus, which next month releases “Andor,” a “Star Wars” spinoff that’s a prequel to the spinoff “Rogue One,” as well as “Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation,” in which the galactic battles are put on hold for some much needed R&R. All told, Disney had planned for 10 new Star Wars series and 10 Marvel shows in the near future.

While Netflix lacks that kind of franchise firepower, “Stranger Things” is one of their biggest arsenals. It makes sense that, even as Netflix grasps at new ideas like reversing its resistance to advertising, the company is betting big on something that already works.

The streaming service needs all the help it can get: Netflix not only reported its first subscriber loss in a decade during the first quarter, but predicted that the second quarter would be even worse. That dire prediction came despite knowing that “Stranger Things 4” was set to stream this summer. It’s a sign that, for Netflix, simply adding more “Stranger Things” monsters won’t be a silver bullet.

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The Lithium Race Takes Shape in the Salton Sea

Located roughly a hundred miles east of San Diego, the Salton Sea is California’s largest landlocked body of water, for now.

Measuring 5 miles across and 35 miles long in its current form, the lake was created by diverting water from the Colorado River into the region for agricultural purposes. Once a vacation destination renowned for its wildlife and wetlands, a series of environmental mishaps and mismanagement have left the lake toxically salty, shrinking and often malodorous. Conditions have gotten so bad that Palm Springs Life Magazine called the region’s transformation “the biggest environmental disaster in California history” in March of 2020.

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David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.