Rocko's Modern Life
A quintessential '90s cartoon is about to get blasted into the 2010s. (Illustration by Julianne Griepp, Laguna College of Art and Design)
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Rocko's Modern Life
A quintessential '90s cartoon is about to get blasted into the 2010s. (Illustration by Julianne Griepp, Laguna College of Art and Design)

The streaming wars are here, and nostalgic millennials are already winning.

With each new wave of media that gets released, it becomes increasingly clear just how much influence millennials have on the current market. Whether it’s a revamped TV show or simply another “only ‘90s kids will get this” pop culture reference, it’s obvious to all just how important it is for companies to appeal to this demographic. Netflix looks to continue this trend with their announcement that they will soon be welcoming a “Rocko’s Modern Life” movie to their streaming service.

When “Rocko’s Modern Life” originally aired on Nickelodeon in 1993, it stole the hearts of children everywhere with its zany telling of a wallaby named Rocko and his struggle to adjust to the fast-paced world surrounding him. Longtime fans of the show will be happy to hear that little of this will change and that Rocko, along with his best friends Heffer Wolfe and Filburt, will be the same old victims of the modern world that they once were.

Indeed, a teaser released by Netflix reveals the gang discovering they’re “not in the ‘90s anymore” as they wrestle with turn-of-the-century innovations such as Starbucks on every corner, smartphones, 3D movies and much more. The upcoming “Rocko’s Modern Life” movie, titled “Static Cling,” is slated to premier in the second half of the summer and will feature the entire original cast (including the ridiculously talented Tom Kenny, who returns to his role as Heffer Wolfe).

But while revamping such a cherished TV show seems like a guaranteed way to garner the attention of millennials, there remains little certainty as to whether or not this will succeed in keeping Netflix’s more nostalgic fans subscribed to the service. After all, this is clearly just the beginning of a huge war between streaming services and Netflix is currently facing plenty of competition.

As far as the nostalgic millennial market goes, Netflix’s greatest competition seems to be Hulu. When one streaming service is able to offer a slew of throwback series that includes “Rugrats,” “Powerpuff Girls,” “Animaniacs,” “Doug” and non-animated throwbacks hits like “Saved By The Bell,” “Boy Meets World” and so on, how on God’s green Earth are you supposed to legitimately compete?

Netflix also faces challenges from Amazon Prime, and while their millennial TV show roster isn’t nearly as deep as Hulu’s, Prime still offers classic episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” to their viewers, which is often enough to convince any nostalgic fan to sign up for the service.

Over the past four years, Netflix has made leaps and bounds to differentiate themselves from their competition, primarily through creating their own original content. This is no accident; simply put, Netflix does this to keep their costs down. Rather than re-upping on contracts with mass media companies like Viacom — which can get expensive — Netflix invests money into their own studio productions to keep popular TV shows on their service.

Netflix is not the only company to take on this strategy; Amazon Prime and Hulu have also begun producing their own content with fantastic results. Clearly, this strategy works, which is why it’s become so heavily adopted by rival streaming services.

Yet Netflix’s recent price changes continue to deter the millennials from staying subscribed. Since 2017, the price of their basic streaming service has increased by $1, while their standard and premium services have each risen by $2. Millennials are certainly not the only group frustrated by these price increases and customers of all ages are beginning to flock towards rival services like Hulu, which recently reduced the price of their basic service from $7.99 to $5.99.

If Netflix is content on keeping their prices structured the way they currently are, they’re going to have to make some sort of change to retain their current customer base. Similar to how Hulu and Amazon Prime took a page from Netflix’s book, Netflix ought to flip the script and do the same to their competition by increasing their repertoire of nostalgic TV shows.

Enter “Rocko’s Modern Life,” the first sign in a while that Netflix is doing exactly that. Granted, “Static Cling” is just going to be a movie (and only a 44-minute movie, at that). But the sheer fact that Netflix purchased the movie rights from Viacom offers hope for those wishing for Netflix to ease up on their quest for more original content.

Along with this purchase, Netflix also bought the rights to the long-anticipated “Invader Zim” movie, titled “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus!” Both movies were originally announced by Viacom in 2017, but never came to fruition. The fact that Netflix has taken both of these monumental movies upon their own shoulders provides hope for the nostalgic millennials who can’t bring themselves to cancel their Netflix subscriptions.

While Netflix appears to be making some big moves to retain their nostalgic customers, they still have plenty of catching up to do, especially if they wish to compete with their rivals. The total runtime of both the “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Invader Zim” movies will be about 114 minutes. The question remains, however, whether or not 114 minutes of nostalgia is enough for wistful millennials.

Nostalgic viewers are demanding, and those wishing to dive deep into the TV series of their youth might find Netflix’s closest rivals able to provide more content for their money. After all, an entire series on Hulu will give you much more time to bask in childhood memories than a 60-minute movie.

Nevertheless, it’s obvious that Netflix sees how important these throwback series are for customer retention. The hope is that this will lead to entire series joining the Netflix roster; it’s not farfetched to believe that all four seasons of “Rocko’s Modern Life” could be just on the horizon for the streaming service and fans should be excited about that. Although Netflix might have plenty of competition in the streaming wars, their most recent acquisition is undoubtedly moving them in the right direction toward keeping their fanbase happy.

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