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Two things happened on Friday in the eternally loopy world of TV, specifically Netflix-related.

First, there was a news report that Barack and Michelle Obama are in advanced talks to provide or guide content for Netflix. Second, shares of Netflix hit an all-time high on the New York Stock Exchange. According to Barron's, "Netflix's stock climbed 3 per cent in mid-morning trading, to [US]$326.61. For the year, they're up nearly 69 per cent."

That's the point – to make Netflix look massive and invulnerable. The streaming service has worldwide subscriptions of 118 million and growing, and plans to spend US$12-billion on content this year. That kind of heft gets you a former U.S. president.

Before everybody gets really excited, they should chill. Yep, before there are emanations and vibes of "Netflix and chill" about Obama being on TV to seduce viewers, remember this – there's a phenomenon called "Netflix bloat." Stand by for an explanation.

See, to begin with, it really doesn't matter whether Mister and Missus Obama appear in person to lead discussions on topics weighty or light, or they simply act as executive producers of content. It matters that their names are associated with the content. That's the buzz that generates attention, gets subscribers to keep paying and gets new subscribers to come on board.

Caution is required before anyone swoons over the idea of Obama heading a variety chat show that ends with him singing a love song to Michelle. While Netflix has changed the way people around the world consume TV, it has actually stuck with a very old business model: Make a lot of content, throw it out to consumers and see what happens. For years, it was as plain as a poke in our eye that the big-four broadcast networks in the United States were spending too much on developing and making pilots, discarding some and then putting so many new shows on the schedule that several were certain to fail.

Creating TV content is an inexact science. In fact it isn't a science at all, unless you're CBS and stick to the template of procedurals featuring eccentric sleuths and comedies featuring crusty-but-lovable dads. It's not a matter of creating art, either, at the network level, and Netflix for all its vaunted algorithm technology is doing what network execs have been doing for decades: Hoping for a hit to emerge from an excess of content.

There is a lot that is actually traditional about Netflix. The binge-watching model it created, which at first seemed astonishingly astute, was rooted in the company's previous existence as a mail-order company providing DVDs. The company realized that customers were acquiring entire seasons of a show on DVD to watch multiple episodes in a binge. It took that info to its streaming model. Further, when it began creating original content it adhered strictly to the cable model of making 10 to 13 episodes per season. Just as HBO did with The Sopranos or AMC did with Breaking Bad. The problem is that the cable model is so strictly followed that there now exists what's called Netflix bloat. It means that some series could stand to lose anywhere from three to six episodes to work dramatically. The storylines are drawn out to match a business model, not a storytelling arc. An example is Gypsy, a thriller starring Naomi Watts as a psychiatrist drawn into the perverse world of a client. At six hours it might have had pith and power, but it dragged on for 10 and was cancelled.

The principle of Netflix bloat applies to everything about the service now. The idea of David Letterman returning to TV with the creative freedom to do lengthy interviews was intriguing. Then along came My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, the first episode featuring Barack Obama, and it was as unmemorable as the title. Ensuing episodes of Letterman's in-depth chat have been just as anodyne and that, right there, is Netflix bloat.

Maybe the stock price is part of the bloat. Maybe the spending on content is vastly bloated. Benefiting from the bloat are Barack and Michelle Obama. That's all.

Oh, and while you're making wisecracks about Donald Trump going from TV star to president and Obama going from president to TV star, remember there's a lot of bloat not confined to Netflix. As cash-rich Apple moves into TV content and Amazon continues to spend wildly on content too, eventually there will be a bid to get Trump, post-presidency, back on TV. He'll want more money than Obama, of course. Talk about bloat.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama is in advanced talks with Netflix Inc to produce a series of high-profile shows, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Reuters