Is Netflix Ruining TV?

Netflix menu. Screenshot by author.

There’s no doubt that Netflix has reshaped the way we think of TV. From content to viewing practices and patterns, Netflix as a streaming platform has become a cultural staple of the 21st century. This has gained Netflix a form of notoriety even if it is one of producing bad TV shows and films. 

Netflix doesn’t only display its original content, but also has a large variety of network TV series and licensed movies, which is its main appeal for subscribers. Lovers of Friends, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine mainly subscribe to the platform to watch such popular shows over and over. “Licensed content accounts for nearly 2/3 of viewing hours on Netflix”. Netflix spends billions of dollars on new original content yet still heavily relies on content that isn’t their own. Their original content isn’t garnering nearly as many subscribers as it should. We’re going to examine exactly why their original content isn’t appealing enough to attract new customers solely based on its own merit. 

Netflix works in a competitive market. Streaming platforms are now hotter than ever. Hulu, Disney+, Starzplay, Amazon Prime, and many, many other websites are all competing for the same thing: subscribers’ attention and money. What Netflix has over most other American streaming services is the fact that it’s international. Having an international market and audience to please comes with its ups and downs. 

To appease this market and make enough money to keep itself afloat, Netflix pumps out countless shows and movies. This formula has manifested itself in many different ways but still hasn’t  worked so well. 

Netflix started strong in 2013 with hit shows such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. It redefined TV in its own way. Instead of episodes airing periodically over the course of a few months, Netflix releases seasons in bulks, one entire season at a time, typically a year apart. This per se has a huge impact on how audiences consume the media. TV is an art like everything else, and consuming it shouldn’t be as mindless as it has become. Shows are supposed to spark real conversations among viewers and fans, but now you have to tiptoe when talking about a show so you don’t spoil it for anyone since. Because of Netflix’s delivery method, you don’t know when fans have actually gotten around to watching an episode like you would with regular TV delivery. This blunts the critiques viewers could have about a show, and instead of letting every episode simmer in their heads for a bit until they receive another one, they have to take in the show in its entirety first. This erases the whole joy of keeping up with a series; the wait, the speculation, the theories. All your questions are answered within 5 hours of binge-watching. “Netflix shows, thanks to their delivery method and their endless sprawl, spark nothing but the impulse to press ‘play’ on the next episode,” D’addario and Lee of TIME said. 

The Netflix production model not only affects how audiences view and talk about shows, but also deteriorates the contents of the shows. Netflix has begun pumping out shows mindlessly, most being 8 to 10 episodes long, barely enough to develop a decent plot and characters, then canceling them before they could actually take off. This isn’t to say network TV doesn’t have its own share of objectively bad shows, but Netflix, which prides itself in quality, should be doing better. Shows like 13 Reasons Why, Too Hot To Handle, Insatiable, and Dynasty shouldn’t have as much work put into them as they do, because they are, in the most objective sense and based on audience reviews, bad and/or distasteful. 

Netflix also seems to suffer from a chronic illness that is prematurely canceling shows. Promising shows such as Everything Sucks!, Anne With An E, Santa Clarita Diet, One Day at a Time, and many others were canceled in their beginning 1st to 3rd seasons, with no apparent reason as they were all doing well in audience reviews and numbers. Additionally, Netflix tends to beat a dead horse when it comes to highly popular shows. Shows that have finished telling their stories but are still rising in popularity are still renewed. It’s unnecessary. It wastes the money that could go to producing actual good content, and it ruins the popular shows for many people. 

Television doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it has a genuine cultural impact and weight. Netflix itself created a whole new narrative and view on television. Although it’s all fun when you want to lie down and not think about anything for three hours, we cannot ignore its impact on the art of TV. The over-saturation of content has caused us to be motivated by the “play” and “next” buttons, turning us into mindless consumers of bad, expensive TV. Netflix’s formulaic approach to creating content is somehow working for them but, bit by bit, mildly interesting shows that all have the same plot and are ruled by the same 80s soundtrack are going to be their downfall. They need to figure out a new way of pleasing their audience because people are quickly getting tired of the same old shticks. They could start by changing the way they deliver their shows. People quickly become uninterested in shows they haven’t had new content for in over a year, so adjusting that model could be an easy fix. Additionally, Netflix needs to listen to fan complaints and reviews as they are the ones keeping the platform afloat. When the cancelation of a show sparks as much backlash as what happened with Anne With an E, you should undergo a reality check and think about why you aired the show in the first place; is it for the quick money or the art of making TV? 

2 Comments

  • I relate to this so much. Whenever i watch a series on Netflix, i feel like I’m having conversation with the characters instead of bonding about it with a group of friends. And I easily feel like an outcast during a conversation about the series if i havent watched the whole thing. Its like if im a few episodes behind, i miss sharing the whole excitement about it!

  • Well said, a big part of watching shows is about the anticipation and build up for the next episode. Immediately finding out whats gonna happen next ruins the chance for a conversation and discussion to happen between friends or others who watched the same show. Also letting your imagination run wild after watching an episode has to one of the best parts of watching a show. See marvel movies, they leave a huge gap between movies and they always leave cutscenes for fans to contemplate and figure out what might happen next. Awesome piece love the content.

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