With the success of a couple of its original movies over the Christmas period, Netflix is finally staking a claim as a player in this market and, according to one observer, laying the groundwork for a potential new marketing revenue stream.

Last week, Netflix said 45 million subscribers streamed its film Bird Box – a record for original movie content on the platform – and this week had to ask people to be careful not to injure themselves when undertaking the Bird Box challenge, a social media fad in which people post videos of themselves performing tasks blindfolded like characters in the film.

“This is by no means Netflix’s first movie ... but this one has really penetrated cultural consciousness,” said Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, who told NBC that Bird Box would have a similar impact on the platform’s original film business as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black had done for original TV series.

“This is just one more drop in the bucket that announces to American entertainment audiences that Netflix is no longer optional,” he added.

A week after Bird Box came Bandersnatch, an interactive film with multiple outcomes in which viewers are asked to make decisions for the main character, himself a videogame designer building a multiple-ending game. This too has been "memed" online.

But Jess Damiani, writing in The Verge, said Bandersnatch could become Netflix’s secret marketing weapon.

The first choice that viewers are presented with is what cereal the main character should eat. While this is not something one would expect to have a significant impact on the subsequent narrative, Damiani said “it showcases the most blatant marketing technique Netflix can deploy with interactive content: programmatic product placement."

“Interactivity establishes a direct pipeline between consumers and marketers," he said. "The more agency a movie grants its viewers, the more opportunities it has to serve up user-tailored content backed by ad dollars.”

As well as simple product placement, brands could also test product designs, Damiani suggested – a service Netflix could sell to brands before production even begins. “Netflix will be able to erase marketers’ greatest obstacle by hand-holding them to their most receptive audiences,” Damiani said.

Sourced from The Verge, NBC; additional content by WARC staff