Traditional TV viewing has changed a lot since the black and white knob television sets which emitted low-level radiation permanently singing one’s shadow onto the shag carpeting of the living room. With analog airwaves going digital and the introduction of Digital Video Recorders included within basic cable packages, TV has come a long way. As technology progresses however, so do the means of watching TV; with streaming television services becoming the norm, television viewing is being re invented.
On the forefront of this change are streaming services that allow viewers to access current and old TV programming from anywhere, through various devices at any time of the day. Netflix has emerged as one of the first and most dominant forms of this sort of medium, providing the most content and boasting of the most subscribers than any other streaming service. With its success, the content provider has now moved on to create original programming available on their services. This new means of producing original Television programming may make the more traditional methods obsolete.
Here are 3 ways in which Netflix’s original programming is reinventing how TV Shows are produced by the networks and viewed by the audience.
The Bottom Line
Currently, the start of the television season sees brand new shows debuting on the airwaves. Prior to this however, is something known as ‘Pilot season’; production companies produce a pilot episode, essentially acting like an audition tape to a TV series they hope to sell to a major network or cable television channel. Out of the hundreds of shows that create a pilot, the channels buy many, while those are whittled down even further to get financed for a full season. In 2013, the entire process cost anywhere from $300 to $400 Million USD.
The Netflix model of producing shows consists of a project going from conception to production in one motion without the lengthy and costly process of production in between each step of the gauntlet. This extremely cost effective method of producing original content, which thus far has been immensely successful with original shows like ‘House Of Cards’ and ‘Orange Is The New Black’, obviously affects any profit driven company’s bottom line. This is something that would cause major savings to the network and cable television channels from their current business model.
Since Netflix also has internal functions that allow them to track and view what content is chosen from their library and by whom, they are better able to gauge the tastes of specific demographics based on their choice of content, before deciding to produce their programming. This allows Netflix to create shows that are targeted to a specific demographic, accurately projecting the success of an original show based on subscribers’ viewing patterns and habits; a resource used in the process of launching their their first originally produced show, ‘House Of Cards’.
This projection of key demographic based on actual content viewed by actual subscribers, makes Netflix’s data a lot more accurate than network or cable television data, which is always gathered ad hoc; meaning that they are only aware of how many people have seen their episode, and who, after an episode has already been produced and aired, allowing the following episode production to be affected by the feedback from the last. This ad-hoc approach to the production of episodes also creates another issue in the traditional model, which affects the quality of the content as well.
Freedom Of Storytelling
The process with which the shows are ordered, and broadcast also plays a major role in why the Netflix model is becoming a preferred choice for viewers. A regular network or cable television channel currently releases 1 season of episodes, weekly over the course a year, with breaks and hiatuses in between. This affects the makers of the show, as the storytelling has to be paced keeping that schedule in mind; season premieres have to be more exciting than a mid season episode. A finale episode before a long break may be written with a cliffhanger in mind, and so on. So the release schedule of the product that is the show is determining the creative elements of the story; causing the flow of storytelling to be interfered with, hindering the overall quality of the content.
Netflix’s original series are devoid of all of that, as an entire season is released at the same time, allowing viewers to ‘binge watch’ the whole show at one time, enhancing the viewer experience. This also allows the writers and producers to create a season long cohesive story without having to worry about or being beholden to feedback from the network regarding ratings, or creating the content around the release schedule. There are countless examples of TV franchises that have been critically praised by audiences, however, suffered from low ratings and eventually cancelled by the networks, due to their own interferences such as airing episodes out of order. The biggest examples of this include Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’.
With the convenience of being able to watch TV shows from anywhere, at any time and on the audience’s own terms, television viewership is evolving, and Netflix is one the forefront of it. This demands a reciprocal change in how those very same television shows are produced and made available to that same audience. With Netflix’s innovative model of producing their original content for an audience that they know is going to be interested in it based on accurate demographic targeting and projections, the way in which we have been watching TV shows is definitely on its way out.