Netflix and Impact
On August 29th, 1997 the video sharing company Netflix was founded. The creation of this video service seemingly uneventful at the time would bring forth extreme impact in the future, not for what it was then, but for what it introduced in 2007; digital streaming video services that you could access at home – no CD, VHS, or other form of device required aside from your television and remote. This new streaming service would revolutionize not only the video sharing industry but the television industry as well. This is seen through impacts on the viewer and audience, as well as impact on the content created and the entirety of the entertainment industry.
Impact Through Audience
Netflix has over 52 million paying subscribers in the United States alone, allowing a culture to grow around the streaming service. Staying up all night binge watching the release of that new show, “Netflix and Chill”, racing to finish seasons, and the ability to watch preferred shows, at preferred times (without added fees or micro transactions clouding these choices) have been the new culture that surrounds Netflix and the ability to binge watch.
These changes can either be viewed as positive or negative based on perspective, through the lens of consumer the ability to choose between products has increased with Netflix binge culture. When it comes to regular television, the executives decide the schedule for their programs that they have license to, micro transactions are an option if you want to watch something specific at a specific time or have specific to specific channels, however that would be on top of the subscription fee that has already been paid for basic access, with Netflix that choice of what to watch when is fully in the hands of the consumer.
Netflix will release full seasons of a show at once, which regular television does not, the impact this has is one of viewership – with regular television a bad episode may mean the difference between your viewer tuning in next week, whereas with Netflix even if you are unsure or find an episode annoying or irrelevant if can be skipped, returned to, or played through to the next episode at the viewer’s discretion. These changes have allowed for the power to lie with the viewer instead of the company, which has allowed for Netflix’s increased popularity and exponential growth over the years.
Moreover, the negative impacts of binge watching culture can be contributed to a “need it now” generation in Millennials and their predecessors, Generation Z. Entitlement has been an issue in millennial culture, as with streaming, smart phones, and digital media the world has become one of instant gratification at the loss of patience. This as a long-term behavior can contribute to weakened or broken relationships, more conflicts, and eventually an inability to do things without assistance. To say Netflix makes people entitled would be egregious, however to say it cannot contribute in the slightest to these offenses would be ignorant.
Netflix’s first original series House of Cards first aired February 1st 2013, from there Netflix has created many different original series in differing genres and languages set in different places around the planet. Binge culture has allowed for two very important changes seen in Stream Only TV versus its televised counterpart.
Netflix originals are streaming on a commercial free platform, allowing a seamless flow in the media that has not been seen since 1941 when the first American commercial was run. Watching the media side by side the differences are quite stark as the clear pause or directional change in plot on Televised media does not happen in the Steaming media. For example when watching The Big Bang Theory there will be seemingly random title cards thrown in where it was intended commercials to be, regardless of whether or not a pause may seem adequate or necessary for the moment. The differences are jarring when watching both media as whole entities instead of broken apart by the intended commercial breaks.
The other major change can be seen in the content of the new stream only media. Through rating systems and other metrics Netflix has been able to use consumer data to more heavily influence what the content of their original series and movies are. 2017 Netflix Original Bright starting Will Smith is a feature length urban fantasy adventure action movie that tackles topics such as police brutality and racial profiling among other high-profile topics of the current day, the movie though disliked by critics was highly receptive to the public.
General Television however cannot make leaps as Bright and many of it’s predecessors have because of the way funding and time slots works in television. To get the funding and get a good time slot to run not only do they have to appeal to most of the public, but they also must appeal to advertisers. Advertisers may not be willing to risk pairing their product with a show that pushes the boundaries as those shows risk lost viewership as lost viewership equates to lost money. In this way the popularity of Netflix and the ability to binge watch the shows and movies they provide in their streaming service is in fact propelling the prowess and challenging the way the industry functions. Through these two changes; Netflix is bringing a lot of possibility and change to the media industry, allowing a break from the same tired stereotypes and reused unoriginal plot lines and bringing something new to the industry.
As previously stated, Netflix is bringing possibility and change into the media and entertainment industry. Not only through content are changes under way but in how television is experienced. Micro transactions are included so consumers can watch precisely what they want when they want, as the Netflix system allows with its basic streaming package, that said those options often don’t come close to what Netflix has available, meaning in order to compete modern television’s hand is being forced to increase selections and make changes towards a more consumer friendly basis as Netflix already has. Some of the newer televisions are coming with a dashboard, it can be argued this is to compete with computer streaming, however it allows cable to use the same dashboard system that Netflix already has. The Netflix dashboard adds to the consumer experience by showing popular shows, things you may like based on previous shows you have enjoyed, along with a system that allows you to rate positively or negatively shows that you have seen.
Along with regular television there are also other streaming services, one of the big-name competitors being YouTube. YouTube has worked on a previous system for it’s entire existence, allowing content creators to post videos of any content and using an advertising system to monetize views, thus paying the creators. Due to the popularity of streaming services that have higher production value, YouTube has created YouTube Red, where the consumer pays for a subscription which comes with three perks, 1) all content advertisement free 2) the ability to play videos in the background when the phone is on standby, and 3) the ability to access the premium YouTube Red content. Focusing on the third point, YouTube has had high profile content creators create items like television shows, such as Joey Graceffa’s Escape the Night which stars a slew of high profile content creators in a reality television style “who done it” murder mystery. The show isn’t groundbreaking, and the plot has been overused beyond repair, but it is still following in Netflix’s footsteps by creating it’s own version of the streaming service, despite YouTube Red still being in it’s infancy as a sub-platform having only been created in 2015.
On top of YouTube, Netflix and Hulu have grown up and into adolescence competing against one another. Though not the exact same formula the two share similarities, both posting and creating original content, both have a subscription viewing base, the only real difference being the fact that Hulu has a non-subscription option where you can access the shows as long as you are watching the ads provided with the content. Netflix does not have this option, and therefore Hulu almost bridges the two new media. These are the three big name streaming services and so it makes sense that they would converge upon and share with one another as their new formula shapes the entertainment industry.
The impact Netflix has had is enormous, and that should be celebrated, from the viewing choices and habits of consumers, to how the entertainment industry functions and what content it provides. Whether or not binge watching has or will become a blight on society is irrelevant compared to all the positive changes that the ability for streaming services have brought to consumers around the world.
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