April 11, 2021
Netflix presents itself as a social concept, entertaining people and engaging them in a way that creates open-mindedness and brings communities together. Is this true or is this just the next level of profiteering, preying unethically on the emotions of the public for financial gain without due regard to the consequences? Are any of their competitors different and how have they been influenced by Netflix? With Netflix reporting some 200 million subscribers worldwide and rising public concerns about content, these are perhaps issues that need to be addressed.
Streaming services just keep growing, with big-name competitors like Disney squaring up to take on Netflix. There can be no doubt that Netflix has been the major player and mover in the transition to streaming media, developing rapidly from the early days of leasing out DVDs by post to embracing the internet and promoting OTT streaming services right across the globe. Other organizations like Hulu and HBO Max have jumped on board this innovation and introduced rival packages to poach subscribers but the minds behind Netflix repeatedly moved the concept on to the next level. Their massive success seems based on their intuitive understanding of market trends and simply, but boldly, taking the obvious next step ahead of the competition.
The world has leapt across bridges and scaled peaks in home entertainment since the advent of television which promised to advance global education and benefit society. News and documentaries have engaged minds, educated and advanced knowledge and understanding of our own communities and others. In this way, TV stations achieved the aspirations of early pioneers but in many homes became the center of attention, taking over leisure hours, changing eating habits, limiting daily communication between family, friends and guests. Some considered TV to be an inherently anti-social innovation and questioned where it would all lead.
At the same time as TV insinuated itself into homes, cinema provided increasingly fascinating visual entertainment, racking up the dollars for movie-makers. Yet movies still meant going out, being with others, discussing plots or reactions and interacting with friends and family. With the introduction of video recordings and the VCR, this too would soon change with stores renting out big-name movies for home viewing. DVDs and DVD players continued the trend.
In 1997, the creators of what would become Netflix, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph saw an opportunity and began selling and renting movie videos by mail-order. Domestic life for millions refocused again with the possibility of watching TV at a more socially palatable time and movies at home, solo or as a sharing experience. Perhaps at this point, these developments mitigated the fears of detractors of modern media, but as the internet rapidly infiltrated every facet of working and home life, the same concerns would resurface.
Hastings and Randolph marched on, building up their number of film titles, providing viewing suggestions for renters and introducing a subscription scheme that became a business model for the future. As video-on-demand and consumer television services began to take over from traditional static broadcasting and video playback devices, big cable and satellite providers dominated the scene. Boxes became essential appendages to TVs, roads were ripped open to install cables and satellite dishes scarred rooftop views. Conversations revolved around getting sufficient broadband width and budgets had to factor in these extras and pay–per-view TV fees. The Netflix creators sensed the next move and reacted.
Advances in technology, so amazing in the 20th century, became meteoric phenomena in the 21st especially in the field of computer science. Once only found at work, personal computers soon sat alongside the TV. The cumbersome tower apparatus and accompanying clumsy desk barely hiding nests of wires shrank to a laptop on the table and minimized after to a hand-held wire-free tablet and finally withered to a smartphone. The internet changed lives and travelled across the world like a bouncing bomb, landing on societies in the farthest corners of the earth.
In 2007, streaming services, limited by broadband width and other negative factors, provided poor quality videos but Netflix decided to risk-all and launch a video streaming service via the internet. With their refined curating system, they uploaded content onto servers and made it available directly and instantly to subscribers. This would make binge-watching possible (and likely) and another age of home entertainment was evolving in the face of the cable giants.
Netflix had taken a huge gamble but the technology developed rapidly to make the vision a successful reality. Massive teething problems in the transition finally abated and by 2011, with Wi-Fi an established means of watching videos and TV, Netflix began developing its own content, again ahead of competitors. As the internet spread across the globe, so did Netflix streaming content to subscribers and without advertisements constantly interrupting services, another big plus for the company over alternatives.
Wi-Fi and streaming services, even live TV, meant that viewers had come back to the start. TV had brought benefits beyond just entertainment but the modern age allowed viewers to choose subscriptions meaning viewing-on-demand anywhere, anytime and on multiple devices. A new generation could live no other way and far from freeing-up social time. For many people, huge chunks of life had become lived out on a computer screen. Recently, social media has lambasted companies like Netflix for putting out inappropriate, even dangerous, content. Child-controls on devices are easily circumvented by young people where every friend or acquaintance has internet access on their phones and personal computers. Movies and TV shows involving unacceptable levels of sex, violence and obscenity are increasingly worrying where communities have indeed been brought in touch with each other but not necessarily in a beneficial way.
The billion-dollar success of Netflix evolved through assessing and curating the popular viewing choices of individuals rather than overall ratings and seeing the natural progression in technology. It follows, that their subscribers are still able to call the shots and, if Netflix, stays true to its format, unpopular or unacceptable content will disappear. Anti-social use of streaming services is perhaps a matter of how individuals respond to the choices available.
October 12, 2020
Many Americans are canceling their cable, turning to streaming services, or DTV for their entertainment needs. Referred to as cord-cutters, these consumers make up 44.3 million US households as of 2020, according to NoCable. As the television industry evolves, so have consumer viewing preferences, as cost and customization become of utmost importance.
Benefits of Cord Cutting
From streaming services and devices, HDTV antennas, and smart televisions, there are several viewing options to fit the personal needs of consumers. With streaming service originals, live television shows, and customizable content plans, consumers can choose a viewing method that works within their price range, lifestyle, and content preferences. Many consumers subscribe to multiple streaming services, gaining access to thousands of shows on a plan that can be upgraded or canceled. Others may purchase a device or antenna, paying upfront for all the content they need.
2. Cheaper than Cable
With the average pay television service costing $103 per month, cord-cutting can save consumers up to $1236 a year, according to The Simple Dollar. From the one time payment of a streaming device or antenna to monthly subscription services, cutting the cord remains the most economical option for households looking to spend less on television. Though prices depend on the number of streaming service subscriptions and monthly internet plan, there are options for every price range and entertainment preference.
Limitations of Cord Cutting
With the popularity of streaming services skyrocketing in the last few years, prices have also increased as companies must pay a hefty cost to obtain licensed content from providers such as NBC, ViacomCBS, and Warner Brothers. Almost all streaming services, including Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube TV, have raised their prices over the past two years. Though monthly subscription prices may depend on the number of users and package size, streaming service price hikes show no signs of slowing down as competition continues to increase.
2. More Expensive Internet
Most pay-TV services offer bundles for television, internet, and home phone. By getting rid of cable, cord-cutters may have to pay more for the same speed internet, as they do not qualify for the bundle deals. Though these prices vary by provider, the cost of the internet, in addition to monthly subscription services, can be just as costly as keeping cable.
Despite paying less per month, unreliable wifi or broadband connections may affect one’s viewing experience. Seeing that these alternative television services rely on external factors such as the internet or one’s proximity to broadcast towers, weak signals may cause buffering, poor image quality, or the inability to load content. Consumers must also consider the number of users they have, as using too many accounts at once may result in connectivity issues.
The Pandemic’s Affect on TV
With the pandemic causing growing financial strain on millions of consumers around the United States, over 6 million households have cut out pay-TV in 2020, as reported by TechCrunch. These numbers may rise over the next four years, as eMarketer forecasts the number of non-pay TV households to increase to 68.2 million by 2024. In addition to decreased consumer spending, television production companies have suffered due to the pandemic, postponing shows, and movies due to safety concerns. As companies and consumers adapt to the new normal, the future of at-home entertainment remains uncertain. Despite this, cord-cutting has the potential to accelerate the evolution of television, creating a more personalized and cost-effective way to consume media.