Netflix: The future of TV?

Remember the bad old days of TV when we had just 4 terrestrial channels and SKY was just beginning and if you wanted to see a new episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation you had to hire it on VHS or wait 2 years for the BBC to show it? Well fast-forward 25 years and we are now firmly in the age of Digital TV. The old analogue stations have been turned off, as promised, and the future is here. Unexpectedly we find, along with the satellite and terrestrial providers, a serious new player in Netflix. Now I have been using Netflix for a year or so and have enjoyed the ability to re-visit old favourites and catch shows I missed from TV history but this year with the arrival of House of Cards and Orange is the new Black they have suddenly become the new HBO or Showtime on the block. In fact Netflix actually have more subscribers than either of those 2 Channels so this new direction shouldn’t be so surprising. The best thing about it is that as a Global Company they are doing something truly revolutionary by NOT showing their new shows weekly on a schedule and at different times around the World but simply making the whole series available simultaneously worldwide for the viewer to watch however they wish. This is truly revolutionary and has led to some people watching all 13 hours of OITNB in one sitting! Myself I don’t have that much free time but, nonetheless, I have now watched all of Season #1 in less than 2 weeks which, I think, greatly improves the viewing experience. The only time I have experienced this immersion before was when I discovered NCIS 9 years in and watched every episode in a 6 month period. Now I haven’t yet watched the new House of Cards as I loved the original version so much but I am totally hooked on Orange is the New Black. I was totally shocked how good it is. It’s HBO good. Hopefully the success of it will lead to even more quality stuff in the future if they win a few awards, generate some DVD sales and people start to see it as a viable alternative to traditional TV.

The only other issue is what will we lose with new technology? Any new technology inevitably brings change good and bad. Indeed as much as I hated the BBC for treating Star Trek fans so badly I have to recognise that it did lead to the creation of a fan network that ultimately led to my meeting my wife and everything in my life since then so what other consequences does this model lead to? Well the most obvious one is the difficulty of discussing a show with friends who have watched a different amount of episodes than you have. Without a regular broadcast schedule it’s hard to imagine that water-cooler moment where the events of the latest episode are discussed. Even online reviews of the show are compromised by not wishing to give anything away. Not until a reasonable time has passed can the events of episode #13 be discussed openly. This could be a bit of a problem for promoting series long term? I find myself only really talking about it with my wife who has obviously watched the same episodes. Time will tell. I have heard all sorts of rumours about other much loved series getting revived by Netflix for an encore like they did with Arrested Development. The future is here folks. Get on board.

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