Is there a certain something you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious stuff like water, food and air)? Maybe it’s your pet or your car… or your favourite café that you buy lunch from every day?
For me, it’s Netflix.
“What a totally Millennial thing to say!”, I hear you cry. But it’s true.
Much like showering and a morning coffee, it’s become part of my routine. Each day without fail (unless I’ve been cajoled into leaving the house to socialise), I’ll watch something on Netflix.
Whether it’s 20 minutes or 20 episodes, yes Netflix, I’m still watching.
Why are we totally obsessed?
Our viewing habits have changed significantly in the last decade.
Increasingly busy lives make it difficult for us to enjoy watching TV when it’s broadcast, and sometimes we just don’t feel like watching at a certain time. We might fancy an early night, or we’re out doing something else. Cue on-demand TV.
As of 2017, we can pause live TV (perfect for snack breaks), download entire boxsets, record two programmes at once and catch episodes that were on our screens over a month ago.
Television is literally at our fingertips, and it feels great.
But in a world of Hulu, Amazon Prime, Now TV and Netflix how do you begin to choose which service is the best for you?
Simple: choose Netflix. Always choose Netflix.
Netflix has changed a lot since it was founded in 1997.
Originally marketed as a DVD buying and rental service, just a year later its founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph decided to transform the business. They moved away from the traditional sales setup and focused more on growing into the rental market.
In 2007 – taking inspiration from a then two-year-old Youtube – Netflix incorporated streaming services to its offering. Users were able to watch films and TV programmes online, as well as rent and buy DVDs. Not long after, Netflix became the most visited website during evenings and weekends.
While Netflix was going from strength to strength, Blockbuster (cue nostalgic memories of the ‘video shop’) declared bankruptcy due to increasing competition from video streaming services – suggesting that online streaming and monthly subscriptions had begun to generate the most revenue.
Netflix may have ripped our beloved video shop from us, but it’s replaced it with something so much better.
All about the audience
Netflix is sassy and fun, because we are.
It knows we’re a bunch of binge-watching, social recluses who love film and TV characters more than our own family. Netflix is responsible for the rise in use of the term ‘binge-watching’ – it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014.
It’s helpful, fun and totally aware of current events, which is only strengthened by its strong tone of voice:
It knows its users probably aren’t going to be interested in a bug fix or site update. Instead it focuses on new programmes and films it’s adding for us to watch and sprinkles a bit of Netflix charm on top:
This human approach encourages fun and relevant engagement. Netflix is so in touch with its users that it regularly posts about characters that people ship (the real-life people or characters that fans wish to be in a relationship – romantic or otherwise).
Beronica (Betty and Veronica characters from Netflix Original, Riverdale.)
It’s also pretty great at cross promoting its shows. By posting behind-the-scenes shots and trivia tidbits on social media, including the ‘justice for Barb/Ethel’ crossover, it show it’s aware of the importance of an active audience.
Shannon Purser = Barb = Ethel = fan favourite.
It put its users at the forefront of every single decision it makes
When you see those words before your film starts you know you’re in for a treat.
After studying data, Netflix found its customers were spending around 1.5 seconds to 2 seconds looking at the titles for each show and trying to decide what to watch. If you’ve ever used Netflix you’ll know just how little time that is to be searching through titles – there are over 600 films! And what’s more, we don’t want to.
In response to this, Netflix decided to start producing its own films and TV programmes in 2013, with the idea that in a few years time there’d only be 40 or 50 titles, most of which being original content.
It was a pricey risk (they invested $5 billion into original content), would it pay off?
In short, yes.
Its first production, House of Cards, follows conniving congressman (Kevin Spacey) seeking revenge on everyone and anyone who betrayed him. Five seasons later, with two Golden Globes and six Primetime Emmy awards under its belt, Netflix is feeling pretty good about itself.
From this success it has gone from strength to strength and has had huge success with Netflix Originals Stranger Things and The OA. So much so, it seems it’s forged its own genre, something I’ve coined as sexy sci-fi (sleek, subtle hints of the supernatural, with a dollop of Millennial on top) - you heard it hear first, folks.
It has improved our viewing experience
Netflix is fully aware we love a good ol’ binge watch. That’s why it released all 13 episodes of Orange is the New Black all in one go.
But recently we’ve had to wait until Friday for the latest episode of a series, such as Riverdale. But why?
Because it wants us to enjoy the journey with everyone else. It is creating an event, if you like. Everyone will be tweeting about it in real time (often Netflix encourages viewers to use hashtags related to certain episodes and features), so everyone is experiencing the same emotion as they’re watching.
Plus, there’s nothing worse than hearing a spoiler because one of your colleagues is an episode ahead of you. This way we can enjoy watching together - maybe you could even invite people to your home and watch with them, rather than in bed with a bag of Doritos.
Or maybe it wants us to actually think about what we’ve just watched. Often after a marathon of episodes, characters and narratives blur. We can’t remember what happened last week, and now we’re only really watching to get to the end, not because we enjoy what we’re seeing.
With weekly episodes we have the chance to digest. Plus it’s fun! We have to wait a whole week to see what happens - will our theories be correct? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure, we’ll be back for next week’s episode.
Will Netflix take over TV?
Filmmakers are starting to realise that Netflix is more likely to finance a film that is otherwise difficult to get produced - Brad Pitt’s War Machine was turned down by various studios, until Netflix invested heavily in it to be created.
By doing this, War Machine was available on Netflix immediately and would be accessible for the future, avoiding expensive cinema tickets and the potential disappointment of not being able catch it.
It seems that fellow actors-come-producers have seen the benefits of using Netflix, with stars becoming executive producers of Netflix Original series: Brad Pitt on The OA, Kevin Spacey on House of Cards and Drew Barrymore on The Santa Clarita Diet.
If Netflix continues to deliver the way it has done in such a short space of time, with even more groundbreaking ideas then we’re pretty sure we’d tune in.