Netflix. Amazon Prime. iPlayer: A New Age of Television
Family and friends gathered around the one and only television set in the house, eagerly awaiting the next episode of Dallas, Dynasty or Only Fools and Horses, is now ancient history. Those cosy commercial breaks were an opportunity to refill our drinks and debate ‘Who shot J.R.?’ (CBS, 1980), the most successful cliffhanger ever created in TV history.
Nowadays we are more likely to be laying in bed alone with our laptop watching Netflix. We enjoy catching up on TV using a tablet or i-phone. Catching up is even done when on our commutes. It’s hard to believe that less than 20 years ago, TV shows were only on air once a week. If you fell behind on an episode, you’d have to wait. Waiting, as in waiting for it to come out on VHS- if it ever actually made it to video- and renting it from Blockbuster.
In 2007, Netflix revolutionizes the way TV is perceived and viewed. They did this by announcing that they would be streaming movies and TV shows online. Although the Internet had been growing for 20 years prior to this, it still seemed like a distant and unheard of phenomenon. At the time, Netflix only provided services to the US. During that time they had 7.48 million subscribers that received their products by DVD in the mail. In 2013, they extended internationally. Currently Netflix has 93.8 million subscribers in 190 countries. Those 93.8 million subscribers can receive their favourite shows and movies by mail, or instantly online.
There is no doubt that these streaming services capitalize on the obvious changes in societal norms. We now have shorter attention spans, less patience, and are less willing to wait a full week before another episode of Doctor Who airs.
Because of this, spoiler blogs and articles have become more popular and demanded by general audiences. In addition, we become bored more easily, demanding new shows and movies more rapidly. Some of Netflix’s most popular original shows, such as Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things, were created because of this newly discovered demand. We also want to watch more during one sitting. Hence the term “binge-watching” exploding into popularity after Netflix started releasing multiple episodes at the same time in 2013.
Binge-watching certainly changes the way live television is viewed, especially amongst millennials. Any one person age 14-25 is more likely to go online to watch a show. If they do decide to watch live TV, they are probably doing 4 other activities simultaneously. About 90% of millennials (20-33) and 87% of Gen Z (ages 14-19) have binge-watched video content. In a world where news and videos go viral in minutes, content can travel across geographies fast. 46% of people consume news in bed on their smartphones!
That being said, there is a clear distinction between older adults and younger people in regards to TV watching. There are findings that 93% of UK adults watch live TV on a weekly basis. Older people remember the “olden days” when planning a day around a TV program was a common sentimental past time. TV programs were to be a major topic of discussion at family meals. Nowadays it is more of a personal hobby to watch or binge shows. Kids can do this without their families, which was unheard of when TV was starting to emerge as the primary entertainment medium.
The record for the longest binge-watching session ever is a 94 hour-long binge over the course of 5 days and 6 TV shows, held by New Yorker AJ Fragoso.
While Netflix is the most recognizable streaming site, Amazon Prime has certainly become a very close competitor. Creating original shows of its own, consumers are now torn over which site to subscribe to. Especially since both come with a significant but similar monthly fee. Furthermore, Amazon provides about four times the number of movies and TV shows that Netflix does in the UK.
This shift in television-watching culture affects more than just TV producers. In a world where news and videos go viral in minutes, content can travel across geographies fast. We can’t forget about news channels that are losing business because people can now turn to the internet instead. Even commercials and advertisements for companies are losing business since they rely on news channel viewers for business. On some live television channels, viewers are typically watching 15-20 minutes of commercials during an hour-long program. The internet cuts the commercial time down significantly.
There are some channels, such as the BBC, in addition to streaming sites that don’t display any kind of advertisements. However, the BBC is unique with its UK license fee. Now, more than ever, there is a definite need for commercials that captivate and seduce viewers so they don’t consider changing the channel or closing the browser.
The pressure remains to create revenue through inspiring and aspirational commercials that are part of the overall viewing experience, not an opportunity for a fag break outside. This is often why companies hire hard-hitting Hollywood movie directors, at great expense, to direct commercial campaigns.
The bottom line is that it’s all a matter of preference. If you enjoy cliffhangers and spacing out your TV time, then live television will suit you best. But if you’d rather watch an entire season of a show in a day, binge-watching may be more your speed. Either way, caution to all television watchers: in order to meet consumer’s demands for more and interesting entertainment, TV directors and producers are thinking more and more out of the box every day. And this can only lead to shows getting better and better.
Looking for a new show to binge? Here’s what’s hot right now:
Most Popular Netflix UK Shows
Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, Star Trek, The Crown, Breaking Bad, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, House of Cards
Most Popular Amazon Prime UK Shows
Transparent, American Gods, Preacher, The Man in the High Castle, Mr. Robot, Lucifer, The X Files
By: Lindsey Davis, current Intern at Mark Summers Casting & Management
Follow me on Instagram: @davislindsey
Follow the team on Twitter: @MS_Artists and Instagram: @marksummerscasting_mgt