For the longest time, the way we consume television has been evolving in response to our digital advances, an iterative process that now calls upon TV to do the same. Video on demand (VOD) services such as Netflix and LoveFilm initially came about as a niche alternative to video rental stores for those with good home internet - this has since become the choice for many. Now with TV offering video streaming for their own exclusive content the lines have blurred in how entertainment is fed to us.
What’s the difference between TV / cable networks and VOD?
TV networks are rapidly encroaching on VOD territory, specifically HBO who owns all of their programming and churns out hit shows one after another. The threat of HBO GO has become apparent so much that in early January, Netflix declared that their goal was to become HBO faster than HBO can become them. The Netflix original initiative brought about a new season of the once cancelled cult hit Arrested Development and a US remake of House of Cards; however, the intricacies of this new strategy are even more newsworthy.
On demand buffet
With the release of each Netflix original, entire episodes will be made available at once bypassing the more common week-to-week wait; this binge-viewing model will be familiar to those who marathon entire DVD box sets or already subscribe to Netflix for such cause; the interesting part to this story is big data. Because VOD is an inherent digital service everything users do and view will and has already been analysed to engineer the success of Netflix originals.
Netflix might not know exactly why I personally hit the pause button…Perhaps the action slowed down too much to hold viewer interest — bored now! — or maybe the plot became too convoluted. Or maybe that sex scene was just so hot it had to be watched again. If enough of us never end up restarting the show after taking a break, the inference could be even stronger: maybe the show just sucked.
How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets (Andrew Leonard, 2013)
House of Cards was built off the back of viewers who watched the 1990 BBC miniseries on Netflix, a majority of these viewers also happened to like watching movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by David Fincher; the result led to a US remake of the series starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher!
Despite criticism over the all at once approach or the use of algorithms over creativity; my thoughts are that of optimism. For example, TV shows that started off on the wrong foot or would have struggled in that one particularly tough timeslot have more time to find their audience. Long-form serialised storytelling is made more palatable to viewers with the completely optional binge-viewing choice potentially being a far better method than the week-to-week one. In addition, those who love to wait still can because nobody is forced to gorge.
Death of the watercooler?
Sure, the anticipation and discussion over each new episode is great, The Walking Dead’s episodic gameplay was refreshing to many gamers and watercooler moments came each month waiting for the next instalment; but wouldn’t it be weird if every game were to be played episodically? Those fearing the death of watercooler conversation have little to worry about, books aren’t released chapter-by-chapter and are rich with watercooler discussions in the form of book clubs; the only problem I envision is spoilers!