Stranger Things Is Netflix’s Hunt for a Billion-Dollar Franchise

Days before the July 4 holiday in the US, hundreds of fans of Stranger Things lined up along the beach in Santa Monica, California, to attend a fair modelled after the Netflix show. Clad in shirts with the names of characters and the high school in fictional Indiana, they waited more than an hour to ride a Ferris wheel, eat ice cream and snap selfies in a photo booth.

The event, one of two in the US, is part of the biggest marketing campaign ever undertaken by Netflix, the world’s largest paid online TV network. Over the past few weeks, Netflix has attached Stranger Things to Schwinn bikes, Nike shoes and Coke soft drinks – all to hype the Independence Day arrival of show’s third season.

On Monday, Netflix begins a long promotion with Microsoft. The tech giant is bringing back Windows 1, the first version of the software that made it the most valuable company. The app includes Microsoft Paint and the word processor Write, as well as games and videos from Stranger Things. The show is set in 1985, the same year Windows 1 was released.

Like any campaign, this one is designed to draw in current fans and attract potential new ones. But it’s also an important test of whether Netflix can turn Stranger Things, already its most popular original show in the US, into something much bigger. The company, with worldwide subscribers approaching 160 million, is beginning to angle for a piece of the $122 billion (roughly Rs. 8,40,000 crores) consumers spend on entertainment-linked merchandise.

“The category is massive, and Netflix wants to play a part,” said Gene Del Vecchio, a consultant and adjunct marketing professor at the University of Southern California. “They are going to need a strategic plan if they really want to reap the benefits as they go forward.”

The world’s largest entertainment companies are built on properties like SpongeBob SquarePants, Star Wars and Batman that remain in the public eye via T-shirts, games and toys long after people stop watching the latest…

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