Streaming Killed the T.V. Star

With high-quality original content and widespread accessibility, online streaming is slowly taking over the market for television broadcasting.

Streaming has become a hot topic in the media industry lately. Just like how DVDs replaced VHS and Blu-ray attempted to replace DVDs, streaming is a serious contender to replace conventional media distribution. Streaming began to take off around 2006 when Netflix and Apple first offered streaming services to their customers. They were later joined by Hulu, HBO Go (as a mobile platform for the premium channel) and Amazon Instant Video. These companies initially only offered streaming of movies and TV shows, but have since branched out into producing their own content. Original content from Amazon and Netflix has seen steady growth since 2012.

Original content can even be credited with the the reversal of Netflix’s fortunes. In 2012, revenue and growth was slowing for the company. Upon the release of “House of Cards,” this trend was reversed. Between 2012 and 2014 Netflix almost doubled the number of subscribers from 29.4 million at the end of 2012 to more than 50 million at the end of 2014. However, much of this content does not stand out. With the exception of Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” most other original content, such as “Hemlock Grove” or “Marco Polo,” goes unnoticed. Despite this, original content is still likely to grow as subscribers to streaming services continue paying to binge-watch these shows.

Much of the original content produced by Netflix reflects the views of Neil Hunt, chief product officer. Because the company can provide an entire season all at once and not be reliant upon cliffhangers to drive interest, it is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can create interesting shows without needing pilots and seasons that are just one cliffhanger after another, but on the other hand it can result in overly lengthy expositions. The slow build-up has been a major criticism of Netflix’s original show “Marco Polo,” in which many episodes are drawn-out to an underwhelming climax. Of course, since Netflix’s shows are not dependent upon ratings like conventional network shows are, they can be better fostered and catered towards the viewer instead of cancelled prematurely. This is possibly one of the biggest benefits of original programming, provided by streaming services.

Accessibility to streaming is one of the major components of its growth. Many services offer a website and also an app available for use on a smartphone or tablet. They can also be used on gaming consoles, such as a Playstation 4 or Xbox, allowing for even more accessibility. This makes streaming significantly more portable and accessible than most conventional television. Even further, streaming is done more on the customer’s schedule, rather than the network’s schedule. The customer can decide when he is ready to move forward in the show.

Streaming is replacing Blu-ray through a process called creative destruction. This process is not all different from how Uber is revolutionizing the car-hire / taxi industry. And just like with Uber, there is some lingering controversy surrounding it. Specifically, streaming is somewhat of a gray area when it comes to content pirating.

The Motion Picture Association or America (MPAA) defines pirating as “obtaining movies by either downloading them from the internet without paying or acquiring copies of illegally downloaded movies.” Per the MPAA’s definition, streaming is not pirating. In the United States, illegal streaming is considered a misdemeanor and in Europe, the European Union’s Court of Justice has ruled that streaming content is legal so long as you are not making a copy of that material for distribution. There is not any kind of global agreement on what streaming looks like in terms of pirating. To combat illegal streaming, however, the MPAA launched a website called WhereToWatch, which provides links to where people can stream, buy or rent movies and TV shows.

Though there are many benefits to online streaming, there are also some rough edges. Between spotty original content and occasionally long periods of waiting before a movie or show appears on your preferred service, streaming is not perfect. Conventional channels are certainly on the decline, but there will still be awhile before the networks officially throw in the towel.

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