On august 29th, 1997 in Scotts valley, California, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph started something that did not seem like a turning point in the entertainment industry.
This was the birth of Netflix. A company that offered online movie rentals, nothing special. Soon after coming into the entertainment business, they realized the need to revise their pricing strategy.
So, in 1999, Netflix debuted a subscription service, offering unlimited DVD rentals for one low monthly price. A year later, the power of artificial intelligence paved the way for Netflix to start understanding user preferences and tastes.
Streaming started to make its way into the digital media industry in the late 1990’s but only became prominent a few years after Netflix introduced it in 2007. As the years followed, Netflix expanded into different parts of the world like Europe, Netherlands, Asia and Australia. This expansion was highlighted with significant developments like the production of Netflix original content and glorious achievements like over 30 primetime Emmy nominations and 7 creative Emmy awards.
When major developments take place in modern technology, it leads to the emergence of a more prominent industry but also leads to the death of a pre-existing industry. This is what happened when the cable industry began to die due to the rising popularity of internet TV. Scholars have begun to trace the outlines and effects of this structural change. They identify the “personalized delivery of content independent from a schedule” as one of the defining features of this type of non-linear television. And argue that it represents a wider transformation in the logic of television industries from scheduling to curation.
Digital platforms like Netflix, Amazon prime video and Hulu offering subscription video-on-demand(SVOD) services have transformed the entertainment industry and the way people view it. In today’s age, everyone wants to watch their favorite movies or television shows at their own comfortable time. This what the digital media industry tried to capitalize on when online streaming became popular. The ability to watch movies and TV shows in HD while paying a monthly fee is as convenient as a gym membership. The fact that Netflix has been a pioneer in the creation of Internet TV and has found its way into popular culture, so much so that cable TV is no longer considered as important, is what makes Netflix a strong leader.
Artificial intelligence paved the way for companies like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Netflix to understand the user’s likes and preferences. This is the reason a user sees advertisements of shoes on their Facebook homepage after buying a pair on Amazon. Netflix used similar algorithms to understand what a specific member prefers to create lists titled “Recommended for you”. Interestingly, certain algorithms that Netflix uses allows them to use demography, local public opinion, language and lifestyle to determine which movies and shows would be made visible to a user in a particular part of the world. For example, if a user is accessing Netflix from a small town in Brazil, the shows and movies that will be visible to this user include Portugese dramas that are in line with the general ideologies of the people in that area. In other words, they will be more focused in terms of relatability. To discuss another possibility, imagine a viewer accessing Netflix from Oklahoma City, a place known for the conservative ideologies of people. Obviously, due to their conservative ideologies, they would not be interested in or pleased to see movies and shows on Netflix that propagate cultural diversity in ways like having a racially diverse group of actors, among many others.
Another example of how Netflix uses artificial intelligence is how they create an entire list of movies, TV shows, documentaries etc. based on one single piece of media a viewer watches. Through this, not only are people able to find media they liked, but also media that they could potentially like.
Their first original came in the form of “House of Cards” and it wasn’t just one episode but entire seasons all at once. It was what every Netflix user around the world would come across the moment they logged into their Netflix account. To this day, when I log into Netflix, the first thing I see is an advertisement of their newest special, with the trailer being auto-played.
AMC’s The Killing is notable as the ‘show that refused to die’. While AMC may be a relatively new show on the original programming block, it has, like its movie-themed counterpart, been part of the US television landscape since 1984. Unlike its subscriber only relative though, AMC focused on classic films and earned its money from fees from cable providers maintained by carriage agreements with the channel. Following the launch of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), another basic cable channel in direct competition with AMC’s offering of classic Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 7453 movies, the channel was forced to radically re-brand and, in 2002, due to the additional loss of subsidies from cable providers, doubled its advertizing slots and began airing programmes that were more attractive to advertisers but, being interrupted with more adverts, which made it less attractive to consumers. It was not until 2006 that AMC ventured into original scripted programming with its first movie/miniseries that would ‘align its identity with more original programming’. The success of Broken Trail (2006’s highest rated cable movie, with four Emmys from 16 nominations ) paved the way for AMC’s incursion into original content programming.
To get back to the argument as to why it was called the ‘show that refused to die’, it was cancelled and resurrected three times starting from a cable distributor to finally making its way into the popular streaming service, Netflix. Therefore, it shows how a series can be presented on a more convenient and efficient television landscape where the want for original content is always fresh.
According to trends in TV programming, there has been a prevalence of certain program types, genres, production sources/contexts in the Film and Media industry. The world of original content is plagued by business models that are based on conventions from the past. This is probably because globalization is at peak throughout the world today. The consumer wants something new and fresh every day. Gone are the days when it was easy to satisfy the consumer. According to Ted Sarandos, who runs Netflix’s Hollywood operation, all hallmarks of traditional television have fallen away because of Netflix. He claims that the company’s ability to analyze large amounts of data related to customer viewing preferences has helped them decide the content they need to buy in order to appeal to audiences in countries where Netflix is available.
The company’s reach is so extensive that it has found its way into popular culture which explains the origin of “Netflix and chill”. It is an aggressively international service which gives it an enormous user base as it establishes itself as a series of national services linked through a common platform architecture. Danish public service broadcasters have taken long strides into the international marketplace at the level of funding, production and distribution of TV drama series. The series are sold across the globe, remade in countries as different as the United States and Turkey, and the international co-production set-ups are becoming increasingly complex, yet interesting. The most recent Observatory findings suggest that, across Netflix’s 28 European catalogs, Hollywood movies typically account for over two thirds of the titles on offer. EU-originated movies, in contrast, make up between 12 percent and 21 percent of the catalog, depending on the market. The proportion of local movies varied between 0 percent and 10 percent. In most EU28 countries (including Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic) there were no local films available at all. The range of television content on Netflix is somewhat more localized than movies: approximately half the TV titles in each catalog are American, and around a third are European, with a bit of variation between national catalogs. British, French, and German TV content is well represented in certain markets, but programming from smaller European countries is largely absent. This speaks volumes about the global power of Netflix.
The film and television industry in the United States is headed towards a time where cross-cultural forms of media are being produced and gaining appreciable fan following. It is evident that some serious thought has gone into making these specials. Different cultures have been studied to reflect on the similarities and contrasts between how humans function in different parts of the world. These learnings were then implemented into creating cinematic artwork that demonstrated the power of diversity.
This is what makes Netflix specials really special. They choose interesting themes to potray on the screen; themes that have not been in the spotlight enough but are very interesting to viewers considering the rate of globalization in different parts of the world and the increasing diversity in the United States.
But, what about it’s competition?
The way the world views Netflix is another important aspect that will not let other competitors reduce its prominence. It’s not uncommon to hear people today say “Let’s Netflix” but it would be considered uncommon or even weird if someone said “Let’s Hulu” or “Amazon and chill”.
- Lobato, Ramon. “Rethinking International TV Flows Research in the Age of Netflix.” Television & New Media, vol. 19, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 241-256. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/1527476417708245.
- Akass, K. (2015). The show that refused to die: The rise and fall of AMCsThe Killing. Continuum,29(5), 743-754. doi:10.1080/10304312.2015.1068724
- Nielsen, J. I. (2016). Points of contact, points of distance: DR/TV 2 meet HBO/Netflix. Northern Lights: Film & Media Studies Yearbook,14(1), 29-45. doi:10.1386/nl.14.1.29_1