The Netflix Effect: How Streaming Media Has Changed Not Only How We Watch TV, But What We Watch

#Television

Wed, Oct 16th, 2013 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

The LA Review Book blog has an interesting article on the so-called "Netflix effect," or "how Netflix (and other streaming services) have not only changed the way we watch television, but what we watch.

The split between Netflix and non-Netflix shows also dictates which shows can/still function as points of collective meaning. Talk to a group of 30-somethings today, and you can reference Tony Soprano and his various life decisions all day — in no small part because the viewing of The Sopranos was facilitated by DVD culture. Today, my students know the name and little else. I can’t make “cocksucker” Deadwood jokes (maybe I shouldn’t anyway?); I can’t use Veronica Mars as an example of neo-noir; I can’t reference the effectiveness of montage at finishing a series (Six Feet Under). These shows, arguably some of the most influential of the last decade, can’t be teaching tools unless I screen seasons of them for my students myself.

The networks have long depended on a concept that scholar Raymond Williams dubbed “flow” — the seamless shift from show to commercial to show that creates a televisual flow so natural it’s painful to get out. Netflix does this as well, creating what one of my students has called “inertia problems.” One episode ends, and the countdown to the next begins in the corner. One season ends, and the next one pops before you. One series ends, and it’s ready with fairly accurate suggestions as to the type of programming you’d like to try next. The more you consume Netflix, the more you’ll consume Netflix.

And it’s not like they’re going to run out of content. As the Hollywood studios have tried to play hardball with what films they will and won’t lease, Netflix has turned its focus to television. And it’s not just quality and quasi-quality television: they’re flush with children’s, reality, and British television, with more seasons — and shows — added every month.

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