Netflix vs. The World

At the recent Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, executives from most of the networks were asked some version of “So, what about Netflix?” Most took the expected shots at the streaming content provider while a few others discussed how increasing the quality of television is good for all. It was bad enough for networks when Netflix was getting critical and commercial hype without producing viewership details. Now, with a massive amount of Emmy nominations for Netflix, networks are starting to pout a little bit louder. It’s clear that this cute little operation is far more than a cute little operation. The Netflix model is set to become a legitimate player in the world of television.

As a person who loves to discuss television, I really have trouble with the Netflix model. The week in between new episodes of television gives me time to gather my thoughts, occasionally share them with others, and get other takes on what we’re watching from people who write about television for a living. It’s a fun cycle for me that usually causes me to think about something in a different way, or sometimes even view the entire episode differently. Television lends itself to that weekly discussion. Movies come and go, music albums are released and quickly forgotten by the zeitgeist, and most sporting events don’t create lasting moments worth discussing. On the other hand, television gives us something to digest and discuss as a collective. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you live, or what you do for a living. If you choose to participate in the television discussion, there is no shortage of outlets for your opinions (though we’d strongly prefer you use this one).

The most recent example of this problem is Netflix’s fabulous new series Orange is the New Black. The Czarina and I recently had time to get into the series and absolutely loved it. With the show being released, consumed, and dissected in the month of July, I’ve completely missed the window of discussion. Once I finish the show, it will quickly disappear from my consciousness. A show with this level of diversity and skill should resonate longer than a granola bar. Isn’t that one of the goals of running a successful television series?

All that being said, I completely understand the argument of the people that love the Netflix model. For those people who aren’t active members of the Internet TV intelligentsia, the Netflix model allows for the show to be consumed at their desired pace. If you want to watch House of Cards in a single weekend, you are free to do so. Plenty of people just wish to enjoy television and have their own thoughts about it. For those people, the Netflix model is ideal. Occasionally (okay, a lot of the time), the people that write about and discuss television on the Internet get a little high-minded about the some of the shows on our dials. (I’m as guilty as anyone.) Still, it’s important to remember that we are still in the minority. Most people want to watch television, go to bed, and maybe talk about it at the water cooler the next day. The Netflix model is a great fit with this method of television consumption.

So, where does this go? Well, we’re already starting to see the effects Netflix is having on the television landscape. We are in the middle of one of the final summer dog days of television. With people continually shying away from reruns and seeking entertainment through content streams like Netflix, the broadcast networks are responding by making a concerted effort to program for the entire year. Next summer, instead of waiting until Sunday night for a dose of good television, Fox will trot out a limited event series featuring the return of Jack Bauer and 24. It’s one of many high-profile event series being planned for next summer’s slate. It’s hard to imagine something like this happening if places like Netflix didn’t exist. The rapid growth of original programming certainly helps, but it’s interesting to note the networks have only just decided to do something about it. The year round programming plan is certainly no guarantee of quality, but that the summer months could be filled with exciting original programming is a good thing. Regardless of how you feel about the Netflix model, we can all agree on that.