Netflix is no longer an odd upstart, the quirky answer to an industry trivia question. The service, along with Amazon which is throwing its infrastructure into its own streaming operation, is now A Big Deal.
Better, we’re seeing the tides shift in how the industry and media coverage perceives Netflix. Take this article for example. In brief, “independent” films are generally those that are made outside of a major Hollywood studio. These indie films, up until the past couple of years, get funded, shot, and produced; and then generally pin all their hopes on being picked up by one of those entities. The big studios all have labels that serve to front these purchases, but the paycheck is signed by the major. But now indie filmmakers are seeing Netflix and Amazon muscle up to the table with cash. This has been happening for more than just the past few years; but enough time has passed that the resistance to change from even the usually open-minded indie filmmakers has warmed to the concept of skipping the dance with the majors.
I’m going to point out, for those that have forgotten or never paid attention, the Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos. Yes, that Bezos. While Amazon’s streaming service does get some mentions in the article, the point of it — and the majority of the coverage in the piece — focuses on Netflix. Something we’d never see — have never seen — from traditional media sources.
Why do I say we’re entering — at least the first stages of — a mature phase for streaming? Well, for starters, we’re now starting to see serious attacks being leveled at streaming by the old-guard of media delivery. From theater owners to studio and channel executives, they’re no longer ignoring it. And they’re beginning to spend more and more time and effort in trying to lambaste, rail against, and score shots against Netflix (primarily) and other streamers. Once upon a time, Netflix was something they just added to their balance sheets as it provided a new — small — source of revenue. Then that source got bigger. Then it kept getting bigger.
Then, as is now clear, they decided they didn’t like how it was heralding change. Studios stopped signing new licensing deals with it for content. So Netflix responded, intelligently and with considerable skill, to begin funding its own content. As studio content has continued dropping off Netflix, original content is being funded or bought from the source into the channel for streaming to customers. And it’s working. It’s working so much we continue to see more and more sniping and whining about Netflix from traditional sources.
I love it.
They could’ve worked with Netflix. For example, Netflix has an incredibly granular level of data collection on every minute of content that gets streamed on its service. It categorizes and indexes both the content and customers, and tracks all of it. When the power of computers and databases are brought to bear on all this information, Netflix is not “merely guessing” that it will probably work well when it decides to fund a political intrigue show headlined by Kevin Spacey. Netflix had noticed, from its data, that the British House of Cards was popular among a significantly broad enough piece of its customer-base, a base that also enjoyed Kevin Spacey works. The rest, as we now know, is history.
Traditional channels and content creators could’ve chosen to sign deals with Netflix that required reciprocity on customer information about their shows. So, for example, Fox could’ve signed Almost Human up but required access to viewership numbers and details on the service for it. They’d get paid for the show, and also get paid again by receiving detailed viewer statistics; far more useful stats than anything the antiquated Nielson service can provide. How many shows have we all heard of that get ‘bumps’ and ‘boosts’ and ‘new life’ because of DVD and (now these days) streaming? Futurama famously got returned to the air when the studio was shocked by how successful DVD sales of the show were. Current shows like Arrow have seen their Netflix streaming of the first season lead to significant boosts in viewership when the second season comes along because of all the customers that found the show on Netflix. I trust the example is clear.
But no, we have studios and channels insisting that Netflix is bad, that it threatens them, and so on. I’m not making this up; an NBC executive was quoted as saying “Internet TV is overblown and linear TV is TV like God intended.” I really wish that were a joke, but he really said it, and apparently really means it.
If something like that won’t illustrate how out of touch these fucking idiots are, I’m not sure what will. That’s the very definition of clinging to the path and refusing to adapt, refusing to evolve with the times. Ten years from now, it’s going to be immensely amusing when we count up how many studios are sitting below Netflix on the industry relevance ranking. I’m betting it’s going to be every one that refused to get progressive and stay with the times. Which is probably all of them with the possible exception of Disney, who seems to have wholeheartedly stepped into a warm embrace with Netflix.
Remember boys and girls. It all started with a Mouse.