The Steady Growth of Netflix

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Amy Zhao hasn’t had the urge to flip through channels on her television since 2010. In fact, 2010 was the last time she used her cable subscription.

However, don’t take Ms. Zhao as someone who lives under a rock. The last time I saw her, she was religiously following “How I Met Your Mother”. Her current pop culture obsession is with Agnes, a cute black-haired girl from “Despicable Me”.

Ms. Zhao has been a Netflix subscriber for over two years as of 2014.

A former high school student in the full IB program – an international high school program similar to Advanced Placement – and a varsity sports captain, Zhao simply does not have the spare time to flip through 100 channels, trying to find something appealing to stare at from her couch. “It’s more convenient to watch things on the computer when you can watch it whenever you want rather than fitting your schedule around the network’s programming,” said Ms. Zhao, regarding her preferences between television and Netflix.

Will Netflix make television obsolete?

Although streaming videos online through sites such as Netflix and Hulu seems to be a growing trend, Amy’s case is still far from the majority. According to a Statistic Brain – An online statistics database – , 99% of Americans own at least one television per household and the average American watches 2.41 hours of television each day. The phrase “generation raised by television”, like TVs themselves, won’t be going to go away for a long time.

The consensus among experts in the Digital-media-study field is that cable networks will continue to thrive, but internet video streaming will also grow at an exponential rate. Cable and Internet will most definitely coexist, but in the near future, internet video streaming will be much more popular than today. Cable networks and internet video streaming will coexist peacefully for quite a while.

“I think that cable and internet sites will all flourish in the future,” said Michael Loman, a professor of television at Boston University, “We are in an era of multiple platforms and viewers are watching media on television, on phones, on iPads everywhere.” Loman is a firm believer in the idea that internet video streaming will not be the next thing to replace cable companies. “I think internet sites and cable will continue for a long time,” said Loman.

Loman’s assumptions are incredibly close to reality. Netflix has gained an incredible 630,000 subscribers in June, 2013 when they released the latest season of Arrested Development. As of 2014, their user base has crossed the 50 million milestone. As this occurs, statistic stated above shows that TV is still an irreplaceable commodity in the American household. Internet video streaming and cable may coexist, but one will not trump the other in the short run.

Traditional broadcasting companies vs. the internet

Drew Ayers, a professor of film and media studies at Northeastern, believes that instead of simply coexisting, a merger between internet video streaming and cable networks will arise. “Remember that Hulu is owned by legacy media companies such as Fox and NBC,” said Professor Ayers, “This is an attempt by old media companies to shift into new media.”

As Forbes reports on the numerous American teens who abandoned cable networks for internet streaming, Ayers voices his opinions on the truth of the situation. “One thing to keep in mind is that [Comcast] is a very powerful legacy company. They’re not going to let go of power easily.” said Professor Ayers, “Cable companies also own the internet infrastructure. If they see their cable subscriptions dropping, they’ll just go ‘Oh, we’re going to charge you a hundred dollars for your internet now.’ ”

This does not change the fact that there is still growing room for internet in the broadcasting industry, and traditional broadcasting companies on cable aren’t particularly thrilled with this idea. “The amount of companies that were initially part of Hulu and are trying to back out now shows how nervous they are at losing a lot of their assets,” said Kristopher Cannon, a professor of Media and Screens at Northeastern University. “These ad centric companies are worried if other modes of viewing will alter their methods to advertise.” Cannon believes that these companies dropped out of Hulu in fear that it will become large enough to destroy the revenue they receive through cable networks.

Traditional broadcasting companies have reasons to be nervous. Netflix is not only developing its consumer base, its also producing a number of brilliant series, one of which – House of Cards – was nominated for nine Emmys this year, winning three. Sites like Netflix that are producing original series are more than economic threats that chips away traditional broadcasting company’s consumer base, they have also became serious contenders of traditional broadcasting as a new platform for quality films.

Although the future seems bright for internet video streaming with their growing success in viewership and subscriptions, the ultimate truth is it still has a long way to go before it becomes a dominant medium for broadcasting. Cord cutters – people who cancel subscriptions and go full online – are still in the minority, and with Cable Network’s legacy and large consumer base, the two mediums will be coexisting for a considerable amount of time.









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