Remember when Good Omens premiered on Amazon Prime earlier this year? A whole bunch of people got upset about it. The original novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a long-beloved and cherished fantasy-comedy, but apparently fanatical Christians aren't fans. Over 20,000 people apparently signed a petition condemning the show for taking "another step to make Satanism appear normal, light and acceptable". They said it "mocked God's wisdom". They even dared to petition, calling on Netflix to cancel the show.
You see the problem, right?
Just like the rest of us, co-creator and showrunner Gaiman had a good laugh about the petition.
See, Netflix did not produce Good Omens. Amazon Studios did.
Netflix could not cancel the show if it wanted to.
He told the Radio Times the petition was "the best thing in the world."
In Neil's Own Words
"I really would've loved to have sent a box of chocolates to whoever organised it – they probably would have thought that I was being sarcastic, but it was the best thing in the world.
It demonstrated that the people who sign petitions to get shows removed don't actually watch those shows – if anybody at any point involved in that petition had seen Good Omens, they would've known how silly their petition was, but also if anybody had seen Good Omens, they would've known it was on Amazon Prime!
But what it did for us was become the most amazing and effective promotional tool I could've imagined, because everywhere in the world where they have the kind of news show where they ask you questions about what's in the newspapers, there would be a Good Omens question, which would mention that it was an Amazon Prime show and told people it existed and told people where to go and watch it.
I thought that was honestly quite marvellous. And the truth is, if anybody is actually going to petition because Frances McDormand is the voice of God, or because Adam and Eve are black, I think that tells you more about the people who are petitioning than it does about the show."
So What Have We Learned?
There are several takeaways from this story. One is that silly people are silly. But silly, misinformed people can prove surprisingly useful in the marketing of a show or a book. These people seem completely unaware of the "Streisand Effect": the more they complained in public, the more people found out about the show and watched it.
The other takeaway here is that the Netflix brand has become all-pervasive. Many people still assume that a hot new streaming show is on Netflix rather than on Hulu or Amazon Prime. That's not great for the brand awareness of the other streaming services. I found out recently that many people would love to watch the Emmy Award-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but are nonplussed that they can't find it on Netflix.
They call up their cable companies asking why it's not on Netflix.
The irony here is that Amazon Prime has millions more subscribers than Netflix does. However, many of them are completely unaware that they have access to Prime's streaming service of shows and movies.
But until they do, Netflix will remain the steamer look to – and look to blame.