Netflix and SpaceX show how streaming space tourism is the new reality TV

When SpaceX launches its first fully civilian crew into space later this fall and takes a multi-day trip around Earth, humanity can follow online thanks to an exclusive documentary deal Netflix has with the private space company. by Elon Musk.

The first two parts of the mini-series in five episodes, Countdown: Inspiration4 mission to space, will debut on the streaming platform on September 6 and will be the closest Netflix has yet managed to cover an event in “near real time,” the company said on Tuesday. During the month of September, a team of videographers will follow civilian astronauts, including billionaire Jared Isaacman, who will pilot the spacecraft, as they prepare for the trip and eventually launch into space. If all goes according to plan, Netflix will release two more episodes on September 13; it will film the actual launch on September 15, then air it as a “feature film finale” at the end of the month.

Netflix is ​​making it clear that it wants us to think that the mission, which will also raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is really for everyone. A promotional poster for the show reads, “In September we all go to space. The streaming platform even publishes a live / animated show to explain the mission to children and their families.

But SpaceX and Netflix are hardly the only companies hoping to capitalize on the historic shift to commercial space travel. The Inspiration4 mission and its special streaming mark a new era of live broadcasting from space. The boom in space tourism also seems ripe for the streaming age, a time when people can watch these events almost anywhere, and the entertainment industry has already started turning billionaire’s zero gravity rides into events. massive media.

“Shooting something in space is something that will attract subscribers around the world,” Julia Alexander, senior strategic analyst at Parrot Analytics, told Recode. Alexander added that the growing demand and “the fact that they are relatively cheap to produce compared to prestigious high profile dramas with top Hollywood talent” means that we will be seeing a lot more space reality shows in the world. ‘to come up.

The science series focused on space Nova was the eighth most popular documentary series in the United States between June 2020 and July 2021; Last year, the Cosmos: the possible worlds starring Neil deGrasse-Tyson saw 18 times the average demand for science and nature documentary content, according to Alexander. And let’s not forget that the data-driven nature of platforms can steer viewers toward specific types of shows.

“Netflix and other streaming platforms are able to create niche content like this because they are able to use their customer data to match the content to the interests of their consumers,” said Michael Smith, professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University. Recode into an email.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also keenly aware that their launches can serve as advertising for their brands, affiliates and commercial space tourism in general. As a result, they’ve invested heavily in integrating expert commentators, live updates, and streaming coverage of the launches. Virgin Galactic has even recruited a TikTok influencer for an upcoming flight.

Millions of people logged on to Blue Origin’s YouTube channel for the July 20 launch that took Jeff Bezos on a suborbital flight with the oldest and youngest person to ever visit space, pilot Wally Funk and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen.

“We also wanted to show that this is a real rocket piloting experience. There are less than 600 people who have been to space before, ”Linda Mills, vice president of communications for Blue Origin, told PR Week of the event. “Demonstrating that the peculiarity and uniqueness of the flight was something we were trying to convey to future customers. ”

Bezos’ flight was also the first – and so far, the only – rocket launch that Amazon customers could watch live on Prime Video.

More reality shows filmed from space are planned for the near future. An American production company called Space Hero is working on a show based on a competition that will have average people train and compete for a chance to win a very expensive trip to the International Space Station. Like Netflix, the company says it is focused on “opening up space for everyone” while delivering the very first truly off-planet experience. Space Hero even signed a sub-contract with NASA in April.

Of course, rocket launches as successful media events predate the age of streaming. From the earliest days of the space program, NASA missions were live demonstrations of national achievement, and humanity’s journey to the last frontier was the subject of national news broadcasts. An estimated 600 million people watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. As enthusiasm for broadcasting real-time space events waned after the Challenger explosion in 1986, companies Private space companies are once again trying to market the launches as something that everyone on Earth can watch live.

This post has the practical effect of distracting viewers from the fact that commercial space tourism, at least for now, is an ecologically questionable pastime for the ultrariche that will not accomplish much in the short term in terms of money. progress in our scientific understanding of space. But while reviews of billionaires’ space dreams have increased after Bezos launched, that same narrative might not appear with Netflix’s latest SpaceX show, says Alexander of Parrot Analytics.

“I imagine SpaceX has a say in what happens,” she told Recode. “Netflix just wants to carry it around and make the best docu series it can.”

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