Netflix: A Television Superpower

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Corey F., Journalist

There is no avoiding it – Netflix has become a superpower in the entertainment business. Netflix announced that during its third quarter this year, it gained 6.96 million subscribers, an amount significantly higher than predicted. Stars of Netflix programs, such as Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Centineo, have gone from being virtually unknown celebrities to mega-stars. Netflix received 112 nominations for the 2018 Emmy season, beating the reigning nomination champion, HBO (it ended up tying with HBO for wins, at 23). The service is popular that it has become part of our lexicon.

The relatively fast rise of Netflix reflects the changing of the television industry. Per FX executive John Landgraf, we are in the era of “peak TV”. The business, once seen simply as a way to sell advertisement space, has evolved into a completely unique marketplace. This is partially due to the creation of television streaming platforms. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, the three major streaming services at the moment, have redefined television. Watching a television show no longer means watching advertisements, waiting a week for a new episode, or having an actual television set. Television is now at consumers’ fingertips 24/7, with no interruptions or limitations.

Netflix has done a huge service to television. Because of how lucrative it has proved the streaming industry to be, new services and original streaming shows have been created. Meanwhile, network and cable television channels have stepped up their game in order not to be devoured by their competition. All of this has resulted in a high volume of television programs.

As it continues to grow into an entertainment behemoth, however, Netflix is starting to show the dangers of its influence. One of these dangers has to do with Netflix’s original programming. One of the platform’s most popular shows is Stranger Things, which follows a group of kids in the 1980s as they solve the mystery of their missing friend and fight against supernatural forces. The show has garnered a very large fanbase, with industry watchdogs predicting that some episodes have been viewed by over 15 million people (Netflix does not release viewer statistics). It has also led to an overwhelming amount of television shows and movies trying to gain the same success either by using similar plots or by imitating the show’s 20th-century nostalgia. Examples include the movie Ready Player One*, the movie Kin, and the Hulu television show Runaways. Even worse, Netflix is canceling some of their best series and replacing them with series that fit the Stranger Things template, such as Everything Sucks!, another show about teenagers in the 20th century (in this case, the 1990s).

The other big danger of Netflix is the way that they have released their content. For almost all of their original programming, Netflix releases whole seasons of a show at one time. Some people find this convenient. It eliminates the sometimes-frustrating wait in between television episodes. It also leads to people watching whole television seasons in one or two sittings, an activity now called “binging”. When television is binged, people do not have time to process or savor what they are watching. Additionally, the quality of individual television episodes can be affected, as writers can decide that only the big picture matters since episodes will be watched consecutively. The one-and-done viewing model is great for business. Unfortunately, it is harmful to the shows and audiences

The people working at Netflix need to realize that they have a duty to preserve the integrity and diversity of the medium of television. What can they do? Firstly, they need to stop trying to replicate their own shows, instead commissioning diverse programs. Secondly, they need to change their release method for at least some of their shows, either releasing episodes individually or in much smaller groups. Most importantly, Netflix needs to remember entertainment is more than just a business venture – it is art.







*Ready Player One is based off of a book written before the release of Stranger Things. It is the adaptation of the book that was brought to be because of the trend Stranger Things started.