Few tech companies have achieved that coveted level of fame and notoriety that leads to the verbalization (in this case the becoming of a verb, rather than the verbalizing of) a company name. We no longer “search the Web”; we “Google”. In many cities, it’s just a common to “call for an Uber” than a cab. Since its inception as a video-rental by mail operation, Netflix has blossomed in to an industry leader in home-streaming as well as the legitimate producer of high quality entertainment itself.
For the last decade Netflix has focused on the home-streaming market, a market that when Netflix almost invented it in 2007 was such a niche and hitherto unexplored method of content delivery that it had not yet occurred to anyone to marry the two. Netflix rose from its modest roots in delivering DVD rentals to people’s front doors to delivering video content in to people’s homes over the internet and on to a variety of devices. The seismic shifts in the landscape resulting from Netflix’s sudden and dramatic reshaping of it have had a profound effect on movies themselves as well as the platforms through which they are delivered to consumers.
Truly On Demand
Initially, services like Netflix who operated DVD rental by mail would advertise the service as ‘on-demand’ and it could have been given the current technological limitations, but there were often long delays between ordering and receiving a film, particularly in the more rural parts of the United States. As internet speeds steadily increased throughout the early 21st century, the percentage of internet owners with packages capable of delivering feature length films on demand grew and grew. The advent of the technology itself was entirely predictable, the media applications for ever higher bandwidth data streaming had been a topic of discussion for quite some time.
What very few were able to predict was how this new form of film distribution would have such a dramatic impact on the production and release of films themselves. A streaming release is incredibly cheap (well, as long as we put to one side whatever fees Netflix might charge to those who use its services) compared with traditional distribution and production methods. The ease and lower cost of putting a project in front of a large audience is one very appealing for content makers and has led to some taking greater ‘risks’ than they otherwise would have.
The television browsing menus of chronic insomniacs and the perpetually unentertained are fertile ground indeed for content producers looking to entice the weary and the bleary-eyed towards their own particular brand of nonsense. No longer are the Twin Peaks-esque dramas that skirt around the edges of our pre-conceived notions of what is art and what is madness confined to the corners of uncharted basements, objects of curiosity for the select few who may proudly proclaim themselves part of a ‘cult following’. Twin Peaks transcended its binds as a quirky whodunit and became the template for the many cult series set in middle America that have sprung up since. Netflix has given everyone a little room financially and artistically to breathe and to explore the new boundaries of the video on demand setup, which is turning it in to fertile ground for its own slew of cult shows.
That Cinema Magic
Today the more dedicated and perhaps, some might say, spiritually misguided of us can easily opt for impressive home cinema systems that do offer just about the best film viewing experience from the comfort of your own home. However, there will always be one thing missing; the Hollywood brand. One doesn’t have to see a film in Hollywood or even in the United States to get a taste of that special Hollywood experience. Hollywood has spent considerable time over the last century carefully crafting its image and the image of Hollywood as a land where dreams are made and stars are born.
Netflix has for sure changed the way we consumer visual content forever and of course it will take something quite considerable to dethrone the current champ of home streaming.