I love television, but I never watch TV.
Like millions of Americans, I have switched from watching live-broadcast TV to consuming shows that are exclusively online through streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
Preference for streaming services has not only changed how we watch TV, but also what we watch. While network television is forced to keep viewers’ attention for an entire week, often relying on cliffhangers and gimmicks, Netflix originals foster a binge culture, resulting in series that resemble something like a 13-hour-long movie of quality cinematography.
According to a Time Magazine analysis of the 2015 Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, 40 percent of Americans, which is more than ever before, are subscribed to these video streaming services. According to the report, 2.6 million households have dumped live TV all together.
From cheesy sitcoms to over-the-top dramas, networks marketed primetime television during the time and with the content that promised to garner the support of the largest audience possible. This diverse demographic gave networks the opportunity to sell more expensive ads to a wider variety of companies.
Of course, there were more experimental shows that turned big successes, such as the original NYPD Blue, that pushed the boundaries of what could be shown on cable TV and still turn a profit for networks.
With the advent of streaming services, the future of TV has acquired the capacity to move away from this cookie cutter notion of television. The possibility for pinpointing demographic information and audience preferences is more exact than ever before. Besides using its data to provide recommendations to viewers, Netflix uses this information to produce its own content in a way that is universally relatable.
With shows like “Master of None,” “Love,” “Narcos,” and “The Fundamentals of Caring,” Netflix has been able to analyze viewer preferences to not only provide individual recommendations for consumers, but also produce relatable story lines as well as draw from popular trends to create original content.
“We’ve always believed there is a universality to great stories. The Internet allows us to share these stories with a global audience, and what we see from the data is how similar our members watch and respond,” Cindy Holland, vice president of original content at Netflix said in a recent press release, “The hooked findings give us confidence that there is an appetite for original and unique content all over the world, which is why we’re excited to deliver variety in stories to our members, whether they’re political dramas from France or musical dramas from the Bronx.”
Not limited by time slots or the need to appeal to a diverse audience, Netflix can produce content geared toward each individual.
The possibilities of Netflix research and original content development are limitless; the realities are beginning of a new era of television. This new era offers better content and more relatable content. Told more like a long movie than a series, shows such as “Easy” and “Master of None” provide a more realistic portrayal of life. Relatability rather than drama or over-the-top comedy lend to the popularity and ultimate binge culture of Netflix shows, particularly among millennials.
In a world tainted by social media perceptions and skewed versions of reality, there is something remarkably beautiful about the honest truth.
Is there any hope for network television to move in on this type of relatable, engaging, raw television content? A few shows like “Parenthood,” “This is Us” and “Modern Family” offer similar types of content on a traditional TV platform. While I enjoy these and other network shows, I still usually watch them on a streaming platform rather than live TV.