- People are threatening to cancel their Netflix subscriptions over the controversial French film “Cuties,” and third-party data suggests that some US subscribers may be carrying out those threats.
- SimilarWeb, a firm that tracks website and app usage, found that traffic to Netflix’s US cancellation-confirmation page spiked 187% on September 10 from the day before.
- The uptick coincided with the September 9 release of “Cuties” on Netflix and the #CancelNetflix hashtag that began trending on Twitter the following day.
- Netflix’s subscriber base has grown at an unprecedented clip since the pandemic forced people indoors, and it’s possible that some people were planning on canceling the service anyway.
- “‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement that encouraged people who care about these issues to watch the film.
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The award-winning French film “Cuties” has sparked backlash from Netflix subscribers, and third-party data suggests some people in the US may be following through with their threats to cancel the service.
SimilarWeb, a company that tracks app and website usage, spotted an uptick in traffic to Netflix’s US cancellation-confirmation page — the page that displays when a user successfully cancels a subscription — after “Cuties” was released on Netflix on September 9.
Visits to the US desktop version of Netflix’s cancellation-confirmation page spiked 187% on September 10 compared with the day before, surpassing 35,000 visits. Traffic to the cancellation page climbed to nearly 42,000 visits on September 12.
Netflix’s subscriber base has grown at an unprecedented clip since the pandemic forced people indoors. It remains to be seen how much such an uptick in cancellations would affect Netflix’s growth. Some subscribers may have been planning to cancel Netflix anyway.
But the data points to the “Cuties” film being the breaking point for some.
“The numbers are so unusually high,” Ariane Turley, SimilarWeb’s lead media-industry consultant, told Business Insider. “I think it’s driven specifically by the movie ‘Cuties.’ Otherwise you’d expect to see other peaks.”
Traffic to Netflix’s US cancellation-confirmation page from September 10 to 12 was at the highest average daily levels that SimilarWeb has tracked in the past year. By comparison, in August, average daily visits to Netflix’s US cancellation-confirmation page totaled about 14,000. (There was a slight uptick on August 20, when Netflix apologized about the “Cuties” poster.) In October, there were about 13,000 average daily visits to the cancellation page.
Variety also reported that Netflix’s cancellation rate in the US climbed on September 12 to nearly eight times higher than the average daily levels recorded in August, based on data from the research company YipitData.
The ‘Cuties’ controversy may be a growing pain that Netflix will have to adjust to
“Cuties” is a coming-of-age story about a French-Senegalese girl from a traditional Muslim upbringing who joins a dance troupe. The film — which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré a directing award — first caught public ire in August after Netflix released a poster for the film that portrayed its child stars in suggestive outfits and poses. The company swiftly took down the artwork and apologized, saying it was “inappropriate” and not representative of the film, Deadline first reported.
The day after “Cuties” hit Netflix on September 9, the hashtag #CancelNetflix started trending on Twitter in the US. Some people, including parents, politicians, and conspiracy theorists, were calling on Netflix to remove the film. A review by the conservative Parents Television Council said the movie “normalizes the sexualization of little girls.”
Netflix encouraged people to watch the film before judging it.
“‘Cuties’ is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. “It’s an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”
As of Wednesday, “Cuties” was the streamer’s No. 4 movie in the US based on Netflix’s popularity ranking, which is determined by how many accounts have watched as least two minutes in the past 24 hours.
This isn’t the first time people have threatened to boycott Netflix. Earlier this year, “The First Temptation of Christ,” a comedy special that depicts Jesus as gay, sparked a backlash in Brazil.
These controversies could be growing pains that Netflix will have to adjust to as it brings more international TV shows and films to viewers around the world. Different cultures or audience segments may react to TV shows and movies in different ways. For instance, “Cuties” didn’t face the same backlash in France, where it was released in theaters before coming to Netflix.
In the US, media coverage of “Cuties” may have also influenced the public outcry.
On September 9, Netflix captured nearly all the traffic for the search term “cancel Netflix.” But by September 10, the New York Post was receiving 40% of the search traffic, data from SimilarWeb showed.
The publication wrote about the film’s controversy in August, when there was a public outcry over the artwork, and continued covering the developments. Other outlets and platforms including Twitter, Variety, Fox News, and Popculture.com captured shares of the “cancel Netflix” search traffic, as well.
Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.