By Joe Strange
So, Netflix is a big thing now right? Now the ability to watch hundreds of hours of shows from one place (completely legally) for a small monthly subscription isn’t new, that’s what we Brits pay our television license for after all. But what Netflix, and similar providers such as Hulu and Amazon Prime, have given us is a huge buffet of shows to pick from.
You want to watch an entire season of Breaking Bad, or four hours worth of Mythbusters? Go ahead, they’ll be no need to stop to watch the news, or a break to sell you things you don’t need.
I mean, that wasn’t such a big deal when Netflix was just giving us shows that we’d seen before, that’s what DVD collections were for. But Netflix has changed the game in two ways, first is the immediacy of everything. If it’s there, you don’t have to wait until next Friday at 8 to watch whatever it is that’s on on Fridays at 8, if you’ve ended on a morsel of plot that you have to satiate then you go ahead and satiate, and you don’t have to wait to buy it on DVD because once it’s aired, it’s there.
It totally encourages binge watching as well, which may not be all that healthy.
The second change is that they’ve taken to making entirely new series, such as the fantastic Orange is the New Black, or season 4 of cult favourite Arrested Development.
Now this is fantastic for at least two reasons; first of all it means that producers, directors and writers can craft their art into something that’s specifically aimed at a niche market, because they don’t have to ride on the airwaves and hope people catch it, if they hear about it it’s available at the click of a button. (If you post it they will come)
This means that studios can be more adventurous and take more risks, take a look at the next MCU move; four series devoted to four widely unknown superheroes (and Daredevil, who has some making up to do). That wouldn’t fly on regular television, that’s too much airtime for not enough audience, and airtime is pricey. What Netflix does is opens the doors for the risky and exciting projects that wouldn’t normally see the light of day.
It can also act as a device for resuscitating old shows that may have been screwed over by the network or found a new lease of life on DVD and now the fans want more. We saw this with Arrested Development and we’re seeing it with Heroes Reborn. Can you just imagine for a moment what would have happened to Firefly if Netflix was around back then?
But this does bring a few issues to the surface, not for us as consumers, but for the creators of our shows.
They’re going to have to change the way they approach shows, for one we won’t need so many PREVIOUSLY ON segments, because, lets face it, we’ve been watching this for hours, we know what’s going on better than the writers do.
But more specifically it opens up options for the storylines they weave. Big shock endings, the cliff hangers that we both love and hate may become a thing of the past, with the ability to keep watching, and the endless play feature that many providers use means we probably won’t be turning off any time soon. I understand there needs to be a reason for us to keep watching, but this enticement could be more thoughtfully weaved through the episode, and not just relying on one big shock at the end of forty minutes. Entire episodes can be focused on one character, or group, with hints to what’s going on elsewhere placed strategically, something that Arrested Development season 4 did try.
So that’s my two, very small, cents on video streaming and what it’s doing to the industry. I realise I use Netflix a lot in this article, but really it can be replaced with whatever service you use.
But what do you think? Is there anything I missed? Have your viewing habits changed at all since you started streaming? Leave a comment below!