Streaming is the New Cable: Why TV Networks Should Be Afraid of Netflix

Nine nominations is not a fluke, it’s something to brag about. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored House of Cards with nine nominations including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kevin Spacey) and Outstanding Drama Series. Not too bad for a series that a majority of television viewers have never heard of.

How could this be? How could a show with such amazing talent, near perfect writing, and incredible pacing be overlooked? Surely this show is on a major network during a competing time slot; going against programs like Breaking Bad. The truth is, this show has no competition and doesn’t need a time slot. All one needs is a Netflix account and a device to stream it through. This allows them to have access to every episode of the first season of House of Cards and another fantastic show called Orange is the New Black.

The dangerous part of having access to full seasons of a program is a new addiction that comes with owning an account to Netflix or Hulu, most commonly known as “binge-watching”. Binge-watching occurs when you have total access to a program and you sit around all day and night until suddenly you realize hours have passed and you’ve watched 13 episodes of a show. Here in lies a problem that major networks like Fox and NBC are facing. There is no doubt the instant streaming has infiltrated every house hold and has changed they way people catch up on programming. There is no doubt that networks are using DVR and on-demand to their advantage, but what programs are left to record?

When you’re around the water cooler or reading episode reviews, is it the review for Dancing With the Stars or Game of Thrones? My guess is the latter, and this has been a problem with networks for as long as cable has been dominating the awards and ratings. Netflix has ultimately become the new cable. They are producing original content (or semi-original content like Arrested Development) and pulling viewers away from their regularly scheduled programming as well as giving them something that networks like NBC are failing to produce: great television.

That’s not to say that NBC doesn’t make programs worth watching – far from it. They have produced some of my favorite shows over the years including Heroes, Scrubs, and Community. But for every one show like Hannibal, there are another ten singing shows. If you look at this year’s Emmy nominations you will notice that in all the major categories the only nominations for NBC were 30 Rock (ended this year) and Parks and Recreation (one of the best comedies on television yet unfortunately has almost been cancelled on multiple occasions due to ratings). With The Office and 30 Rock ending, and a possible last season for Community, NBC should reevaluate the type of programming they are trying to produce.

Networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS need to stay away from creating another situational comedy with unknown actors. They need to focus on providing viewers with content that’s not just witty, but smart as well. The reason Orange is the New Black is so riveting is because its not afraid to take chances. Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is the main character, but it’s the diverse cast that makes the show fantastic.

If networks want to create a phenomenal series all they need to do is take a play out of the AMC playbook. Get a veteran actor/actress with fantastic range. Take them out of their comfort zone and produce a show around them. It worked with Bryan Cranston, and if NBC focused more on their primetime programming instead of their talent shows it would have worked with Harry’s Law. “I think they disrespected us and our 7 to 10 million viewers, and I think they’re getting what deserved,” Cathy Bates said while on the TCA Press Tour. An interesting show, with a talented cast, and faithful viewership should never be cancelled.

Now I am only using NBC as an example and I am not trying to knock them down a peg or trash talk network television. This article is meant to warn networks and give advice to them. Take a good hard look at the type of programming Netflix is creating, listen to the fans who are doing anything they can to save their favorite programming through avenues such as Kickstarter, and only focus on interesting shows that can detract viewers from their incredibly addicting binge watching habit.

Posted on August 22, 2013, in ABC, Cable, Fox, FX, NBC, NBCUniversal, Netflix and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Ha ha, I love Cathy Bates’ comment. The big problem with network programming is economics. 7-10 million viewers isn’t enough to sustain an NBC line-up because that’s an hour of airtime that might bring in more cash if a different show were airing there. 7-10 million is too small. However, time shifted viewing turns that whole idea on its ear. It resolves the issue of finite ad time, and the whole story becomes about getting as many eyeballs as possible, since the idea of programmers choosing one show at the expense of another is abolished in this world. Two different shows can run concurrently without excluding any viewers. You’re no longer put in the position of choosing which audience you need to appeal to: you can potentially appeal to all of them.

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