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Opinion: Netflix spoils subscribers, might be future of television

February 16, 2014

lum.13@osu.edu
Kevin Spacey attends the special screening of ‘House of Cards,’ season 2 at the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles.  Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Kevin Spacey attends the special screening of ‘House of Cards,’ season 2 at the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles Feb. 13.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

“Zooming In” is a weekly series in which Photo editor Shelby Lum provides her insight on pop culture. 

“Enjoy it while you can, Netflix, because you won’t be feeling so smug in a few years when Snapchat is up here accepting awards,” Amy Poehler said at the 2014 Golden Globes.

Maybe she’s right — maybe Netflix will feel akin to the somber inventors of the VHS tape in a few years. Or maybe CEO Reed Hastings will still be laughing in the faces of competition for years to come, taking money baths and chuckling at how cute Hulu is for even trying.

Let’s face it — Netflix is killing it, and no one even knows for sure how many people are watching “Breaking Bad” on repeat, lamenting that they can’t view Walter White’s pivotal end, and Hastings isn’t telling how many either. The company relies solely on subscribers, without any ads, so it doesn’t matter how many people are tuning in, but how many people are signing up. Plus I’m sure Hastings is having a ball watching the media squirm with the lack of information.

The video streaming site snagged six Golden Globe nominations at the 71st Golden Globe Awards for Netflix originals “House of Cards” and “Orange is the new Black,” and already sees about a third of all web traffic in the states. Even without viewer numbers, it’s pretty obvious how successful the company has been, and at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Valentine’s Day, Netflix dumped 13 episodes of “House of Cards,” which is all of season two, onto its site, perfectly timed to coincide with what can be quite a lonely day for many singles out there.

The binge watching commenced.

The site capitalizes on the fact that 15 seconds isn’t long enough for people to just say no. For TV shows, soon as one episode ends, the 15 second countdown begins until the next episode begins. Fifteen seconds isn’t enough time to think “I need to get other things done today,” and the masters of Netflix know that. With an entire season dropped into your lap in one fell swoop, why even kid yourself you’re not going to do anything but watch all 13 episodes of “House of Cards?” President Barack Obama is watching, so how could you possibly resist?

He tweeted “Tomorrow: @HouseOfCards. No spoilers, please.” from his account @BarackObama Thursday.

But what Netflix has started has become more than just an outlet for college students putting off studying for midterms. It’s more than wasting a few hours of time watching a single show. Netflix is a game changer.

The company has outgrown its little competition with Blockbuster. In tandem with Redbox, Netflix has shoved the once-king of movie rentals into oblivion.

Netflix creates shows, it doesn’t just rent them out. “House of Cards” isn’t just a cute attempt to get more viewers. After the success of Netflix-only shows like “Orange is the New Black” and its very first Oscar nomination for the documentary “The Square,” which chronicles the ongoing Egyptian revolution, what’s next for this company?

Amazon is already trailing behind Netflix’s innovations, and is planning to release “Alpha House” after “House of Cards.” What a shocker, “Alpha House” is also a politics-based show.

As viewers, we are beginning to get pretty spoiled. Between Netflix (the current front runner), Hulu, Amazon and the most expensive cable package you can pick, odds are shows will never be missed again. It’s a world of instant news, instant information, and now instant TV.

It’s a glimpse of what all online providers will likely move toward. Last year, Netflix acknowledged it is indeed moving toward the future with a new sleek interface.

“We wanted to think about ‘What is the future of television? Where is the future of television in an on-demand world?’” Chris Jaffe, Netflix’s vice president of product innovation, told WIRED. “We also look at this as the first step of a lot of our television innovation to come.”

What is the future of television though? I don’t have a cable TV package, but my Wi-Fi is pretty top notch and I don’t miss shows if I intend to see them.

Is $7.99 a month really enough to sustain both a streaming site and a production studio?

Clearly, so far it is.


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