On a sunny midsummer weekend in Los Angeles, Netflix turned the Santa Monica pier — one of the city’s busiest tourist destinations — into a three-dimensional marketing blitz, transforming it into the fictional 1980s Indiana town where its hit show Stranger Things is set. The 110-year-old structures were dressed up to mimic the show’s location; the Ferris wheel was flashing eerie red lights over the Pacific Ocean. The night before, there had been a full marching band for a lavish premiere party.

The marketing push illustrated how critical the show is to the subscription-reliant digital streaming service. The July 4 arrival of the third series of Stranger Things was the “biggest content drop” of 2019 for Netflix, says Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger. “If any one piece of content would make a difference on [subscriber additions], that should be the one,” he adds.

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