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Is it just me, or is Netflix (nflx) as hard to figure out as the real truth behind convicted felon Steven Avery’s case? (If you haven’t yet watched Making a Murderer, the streaming giant’s captivating miniseries about the Manitowoc County man now serving a life sentence, you should.)
Shares of the Silicon Valley company, back on Fortune’s World Most Admired Companies list after a four-year absence, are confoundingly volatile. The stock was the S&P 500’s top performer in 2015, but became the index’s biggest loser in early March. (It has since recovered but is still trading well below last year’s highs.)
Even as Netflix has grown its original content lineup—it will invest $5 billion to create 31 new series this year—its overall catalogue has shrunk by nearly 32% since early 2014, according to a recent report. Another recent finding shows that, despite its public support of net neutrality laws (which bar Internet service providers from selectively allocating web traffic), the company has quietly been throttling its videos on at least some mobile networks, purportedly to protect customers from data overage charges.
Lastly, a new Wired feature on Netflix’s use of big data (did you know that 90% of total anime streaming volume comes from outside of Japan?) illustrates, in impressive detail, how the online distributor is harnessing “a world’s worth of data” to create content with global appeal. And yet, the real appeal of Netflix’s individual shows is as hard to crack as an Apple iPhone—that is, before the FBI found a workaround. That’s because, unlike traditional networks, Netflix does not reveal ratings.
But, as we like to say in journalism, at least one thing is clear. Netflix is a force to be reckoned with. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay. And, quite likely, disrupt the entire model of the entertainment industry. Our queues will never be the same.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to binge-watching the fifth season of Louie.