NETFLIX’S INCREASING POPULARITY AND THE IMPACT ON CABLE TV

By Kathleen Murphy

With fourteen Emmy nominations in 2013, Netflix’s choice to enter the realm of original content is certainly getting some recognition. Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards received nine nods from the academy, while the resurrection of Arrested Development’s fourth season snagged three. With such positive feedback for the network-free series, and with writers, consumers, tech companies jumping on the streaming bandwagon, could this forecast the end of cable?

There’s no disputing that internet has changed the way we consume visual entertainment; thanks to the instant streaming of Netflix and Hulu, “cocooning” and “binge-watching” have worked their way into the American lexicon, and have quickly become the preferred viewing experience. Rather than waiting in suspense for weekly installments of episodes, viewers prefer to dedicate entire days and weekends to powering through back-to-back episodes of a series (YouTube Portlandia’s Battle Star Galactica sketch to get a sense or Breaking Bad view-a-thons).

Writers have kept this instant-gratification approach to television viewing in mind while creating new episodes, and some have reported to prefer the format. Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz loves the flexibility Netflix has allowed in his writing on things such as episode lengths, language restrictions, and wrote the fourth season with marathon watching in mind. Hurwitz incorporates overlapping plotlines and inside jokes without the constant need to update audiences because of marathon viewing behavior.

Netflix also has given the gift of choice to its audience. Gone are the days of flicking through hundreds unwatched channels teaming with reality shows to get quality programs. Viewers have more deciding power over what and when they watch. Unlimited access to video libraries for $8 a month, are increasingly popular for millennials who are kicking pricey cable packages to the curb.

Tech giants such as Google have caught on to the trend, creating new gadgets that work in tandem with streaming clients. Chromecast, a USB device that plugs directly into the user’s television, allows unlimited streaming from any online video service without the use of a computer. Chromecast supports Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and HBO GO with more to come. It even has a corresponding app that turns smartphones into an effective remote, letting subscribers kick back and enjoy without worrying about getting up to switch content.

While these cheaper, more convenient services have benefited the consumer, the cable and satellite industry are sweating. With a 50% decline in cable subscriptions, Time Warner and Cablevision are scrambling to find ways to remain relevant. Unless they can incorporate modern viewing trends into their business plans, traditional networks and cable as we know it could become a thing of the past.

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