By ‘Making a Murderer’, Netflix is Making a Killing


See what I did there? Even if you aren’t an early adopter, chances are you’ve heard rumblings of the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer”. The documentary follows the true story of Steven Avery.

Avery was imprisoned for sexual assault and attempted murder in the mid eighties. By early in the 2000s he was exonerated based on new DNA testing capabilities. Following his release came a wave of media attention. With little time to enjoy freedom, Avery finds himself back in custody this time for first degree murder.

Making a Murder is riveting. My fiance and I knocked it out in a long weekend. Bedtimes be damned. It’s as if Serial and HBO’s The Jinx had a baby. Both of the shows were popular in their own right. This takes the best pieces of the two and improves on some of their inefficiencies. To get here though we need to see the bigger picture of Netflix and Millennials.

Netflix Gets Millennials

The company isn’t invincible. They’ve made mistakes over the years. The one thing they continue to do well is speak to a millennial audience. Here’s how.

  1. Give the people what they want. The cable industry is a monopoly. Netflix disrupted it. Netflix provides on demand shows at a reasonable price. No longer do you have to pay for 80% of channels you will never watch. Critics argue that viewers want live sports, news and weather. Netflix argues that they can get that all online. They may be right as company’s like ESPN are losing 8.5 million subscribers and counting over the last five years.
  2. Social Phenomenon. How about Netflix and Chill? There are over 11 million google search results for that phrase. It’s spun in to memes, clothing, videos and morphed into a social media firestorm.
  3. Original Programming. Netflix knew to separate itself as a sustainable business they had to become owners and creators. The investment they made in to this has produced some exceptional shows. Both “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” are in regular discussions amongst the best shows on cable.
  4. Create content that makes you feel. Millennials want to connect with their content. If they can’t, you lose them. This show is a roller coaster of emotion. Emotions elicit reaction. This is evident not only by the outcry of public opinion but by a petition with 160,000 names and counting.
  5. Good Products go viral. While Netflix spends on advertising, a portion of their viewership comes from word of mouth marketing. Can I quantify that ? No. However, every Netflix original show I have ever watched is based off of a friend telling me about it. The time Erica and I weren’t watching Making a Murderer we spent telling and discussing it with our friends. At one point last night 5 different snapchat stories were people watching it. Create high quality products and let your customers do the marketing.

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How ‘Making a Murderer’ Came to be.

Making a Murderer is Netflix’s first jump in to True Crime Documentary. The experience is immersive and tugs at your emotions. the NYT does a great job on the behind the series but here are some highlights. The series was filmed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. They met as Columbia Film alums and became aware of Steven Avery in a NY Times Article.


They immersed themselves in the content. They spent part of the decade living in Manitowoc, WI. In the end, they shot over 500 hours of interviews and visuals, then recorded another 180 hours at trials. Their efforts are evident by the depth of access they have to integral pieces of the story.

Timing is everything. The project took over ten years to finish. Those ten years are critical because it allowed Netflix to be it’s stand alone potential distribution channel and because it followed the success of the Jinx and Serial. Netflix is the perfect partner for this show. The pacing of the show (ten episodes) allows for great character development. The on demand aspect gives you the option to keep going rather than wait week over week. That option makes the viral distribution through word of mouth more powerful.

What’s Next?

For you, clear some time and watch the documentary. Get curious, then excited, then angry, then sad, then repeat. Once it’s finished, join the conversation.

For Netflix they get to ride the wave for a few weeks. The cat is peaking out of the bag and the next few weeks should continue to see a rapid increase in viewers. Bigger picture, Netflix raises their profile. With every mega hit they position themselves for more opportunity. They will continue to force cable companies to be better and innovate in their space. More importantly, they will give us access to the next chapter of the Steven Avery Story.

Either way, the verdict is in and Netflix is the Winner.


My name is John Zanzarella. I’m the CMO of Silverback Social and the CEO of the Westchester Digital Summit, To read more from me sign up for my newsletter or feel free to connect with me and explore how we can work together. If you like to listen, subscribe to our podcast, Remarkable You on itunes to hear more from Chris Dessi and I.

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