When I first heard that Netflix was starting to make original programming, I shook my head and wondered who lost a bet over in DVD distribution land. After Hulu took the plunge to original programming and went nowhere with it, there was nothing paving the way for Netflix to be outstanding in this network and cable dominated field. Who was going to watch this? What kind of show could possibly get someone to pay for a subscription to Netflix? Netflix was for binge watching and for movies, not for creating television series.
Thankfully, I was proven wrong. So wrong that I think I’ve watched Orange Is The New Black more times than any other television show previously or currently on air. Netflix has proven that it can sustain a series and it can afford it. In 2011 alone, it was rating its digital revenue at $1.5 billion. Why not make a television show? It went against the grain and chose to show everyone that it can do what it sets out for itself—much better than most veteran networks. This year marked the first time an original streaming show made it to the major award shows. House of Cards, Netflix’s first widely successful original series, broke records when it was nominated at the Critic’s Choice Awards, The Golden Globes, and the Primetime Emmy Awards. Sadly, Orange Is The New Black was disrespectfully snubbed, and will hopefully be honored in every way possible at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards this August.
Back in 1997, Netflix was established in California and went subscription based in 1999. Fast-forward to 2007, when they reached their billionth DVD delivery. In 2011, they had 23.6 million subscribers. In 2013, they became a global company streaming to 40.4 million customers. They received their first Academy Award nomination for their original documentary, The Square (2013), and now have three original series. Hemlock Grove was announced in early 2013, House of Cards was released in 2013, and it’s second season in 2014, and Orange is the New Black in 2013 with their second season being released in June 2014. In mid-2013, Netflix was given the rights to five original Marvel series and the options to produce a 5th season of Arrested Development. They have partnerships with most of the leading companies, including 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Disney and ABC Domestic, Lionsgate, and Paramount. Netflix is a whirlwind force that is continuing to define not only every lazy college student across America, but for millions of avid movie and television watchers around the globe.
For a company that was just breaking through the mold and taking Blockbuster and Hollywood Video out of business, their next step of original programming could have devastated their reputation. When I think of original programming on Hulu or Amazon Prime, I don’t even think of it on the same level as Netflix, and definitely not on the same level as some quality television that is out there at the moment. It’s interesting to see how a company that is not connected to television-creating in any way could create these series that are not only compelling to watch, but have major stars such as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in their biggest drama. They even have had Jodie Foster direct episodes on both House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. The only thing more Netflix could do to completely have me glued to their site is to add day-after airings of current TV shows. And things like “please take a shower” and “you know you have that paper to finish” in between its binge worthy episodes.
Netflix is changing how we look at television production and distribution, but it is also changing how we view television series as well, such as binge watching. Unlike how we watch a show on a set day over a number of weeks for a network series, Netflix releases all of their episodes at once. We, as viewers, now have to make the ultimate self-control decision to only watch one episode at a time—or we can make the more common, coffee-induced, sleepless decisions of cramming as many episodes as we can into one sitting.
This means that there is a new way to everything in television. What we once knew is no longer going to stay the same. With this new way of viewing, it may mean changes are coming to the usual network format. While network format is rightfully installed in television watching, it is not the only thing we can do anymore and networks are taking note. In the future, some of the most successful series may only be available as a set amount of episodes with an online streaming format.
There will be much to look forward to in the upcoming months due to the shocking new discoveries that have happened over these past years. Netflix showed that even though there is not a carved path saying if and when things should happen, it doesn’t mean they can’t happen at all. Hulu and Amazon Prime tried, but Netflix takes the cake for the best original programming. If Netflix can do it . . . no, I’m wrong, only Netflix can do it.