Netflix Stood By Dave Chappelle, And Now It’s Reaping The Rewards

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“Netflix and chill” is more than just a romantic come-on.

It speaks to what a critical role the company has played in the streaming revolution. No one is Paramount Plus-ing and chilling.

Except the company faces more challengers than ever, along with the cold realities of a digital landscape struggling to break even. It’s why the company’s 2022 fight on behalf of its most controversial star looms large even today. In fact, it remains a cultural pivot point that helped Netflix thrive when its competitors faced gargantuan bills.

Yes, even the Mouse House is scrambling to make ends meet with its streaming service.

Netflix once reigned supreme on many fronts, including the stand-up comedy space. So it made sense to lure Dave Chappelle into the fold. The comic giant’s sixth special for the company, “The Closer,” dropped near the end of 2021 and quickly became a pop culture landmine.

Netflix Loyalty To Chappelle Pays Off

Chappelle’s gags about the trans community set off a firestorm of complaints. Critics, who ignored the special’s heartfelt tribute to a trans comic, picketed the company’s office while social media users demanded the streamer remove the special in question.

At this point most companies would sever ties with the talent, grovel for forgiveness and fling money at a half-dozen woke nonprofits.

Not Netflix.

The company stood by Chappelle, plotted more content with him and told employees angered by his material to, essentially, pound sand.

“We’re just trying to be the most exciting entertainment company and more,” Hastings said when asked about how Netflix deals with controversy. “That special was one of the most entertaining watch specials we’ve ever had. We would do it again and again.”

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Netflix knew Chappelle’s content generated revenue, and that mattered in an increasingly competitive arena. The company didn’t stop there, though. It began deep-sixing woke content before it could even make it to the streamer’s lineup.

Projects like Meghan Markle’s “Pearl” and “Antiracist Baby” got canceled. Rebel comics Tim Dillon and Ricky Gervais snagged new Netflix specials, with Gervais doubling down on trans humor.

Again, Netflix didn’t blink.

The company also began cracking down on password sharing, an obvious drain on their financial resources. It introduced an ad-centric subscription where people could still sample Netflix content but for a cheaper monthly fee.

Netflix Continues To Win

What happened next? A flurry of positive Netflix headlines flooded the news cycle, including this mostly optimistic note from CNBC.

Netflix subscriptions rose 8% in the second quarter as its revenue climbed year over year … The company also anticipates paid net subscriber additions in the third quarter will be similar to the second quarter. Meanwhile, Netflix expects revenue growth in the fourth quarter to “accelerate more substantially” as the efforts to curb password sharing gain steam and as advertising revenue grows.

Compare that to the gloomy news attached to rival Peacock.

The NBCUniversal streaming platform lost $704 million in the prior quarter (and $467 million in Q2 2022). The company expects to post “peak” losses from streaming — to the tune of $3 billion — in 2023. 

The Mouse House’s Disney+ got off to a roaring start two years ago. Today, the streamer is suffering alongside its parent company.

The Disney streaming service lost 4 million overall subscribers in the company’s fiscal second quarter after losing 2.4 million subs in Q1. 

We learned in May that Paramount Plus lost $511 million in the most recent quarter.

Netflix didn’t ditch woke storytelling entirely. You’ll still find it on the platform, but it’s not as aggressively showcased as in the recent past. Plus, we may see more Chappelle-based content in the future.

Every streamer could struggle if the dueling Hollywood strikes continue and consumers opt for free services like Tubi and Pluto TV over their costlier peers.

Netflix deserves credit for respecting the bottom line more than the microscopic but noisy woke mob. 

Written by Christian Toto

Christian Toto is an award-winning film critic, journalist and founder of, the Right Take on Entertainment. He’s the author of “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul” and a lifelong Yankees fan. Toto lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, two sons and too many chickens.

Follow Christian on Twitter at

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