The Disruption of Video on Demand

Due to my influx of thoughts on the topic of cyberculture and Hollywood (particularly VoD), this blog post is going to consist of me spitballing all the ideas I’ve been having in regards of what I may wish to include in my final project. From this, hopefully I can begin to better craft an outline of a legitimate research report.

  • Better diversity in Netflix/Hulu/Amazon produced content in regards to gender and race. E.G. A huge cast of women from many different backgrounds in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and Amazon’s Transparent (a show created by Jill Soloway that centres on a trans woman and her family). As this Inverse article states, “Like Fox in the 1990s, Netflix has turned ‘diversity’ into a winning formula, but this time, it looks to be a strategy that will have some longevity. While Hollywood is still full of pledges and apologies, Netflix is proving in practice what studies have shown for years: representation matters.”
    There’s also a brilliant Decider article on the proliferation of female-lead content on Hulu: “while Hulu was investing huge amounts of money to secure the talents of Hollywood’s most-esteemed male producers, women were morphing into the most potent creative forces behind their new original content slate. Realising this made me sit up for one big reason: It’s not the norm. For decades, the narrative has been that Hollywood — whether we’re talking television or film, comedy or drama — is a hostile environment for creative female forces. Hulu had quietly assembled a programming slate where women were not only equal to men behind-the-scenes, but often in charge of them”, going on to then suggest a theory about why streaming services tend to show more diversity in their original programming: “The hiring system in Hollywood tends to favour cronyism and advancing up-and-comers who agree with the establishment’s take on things. If Hulu has managed to think outside the box on this score that’s probably because Hulu, like its primary competitors Netflix and Amazon, grew out of the start-up culture of Silicon Valley”.
  • VoD services producing original content often lends more freedom to the artists in control of making the content. Writers are free to write an entire season of a TV show from beginning to end without the worry of episodes airing weekly as they’re still writing. Therefore there’s less influence from audience opinion on storylines. Also, not being subject to the opinions of advertisers frees up much of what can be included in a TV series and when storylines can occur. For example, the protagonist on Hulu’s The Mindy Project, Mindy Lahiri gave birth to a child early in the fourth season of the show, something that would be unheard of on a traditional network sitcom. As Decider puts it: “Traditionally, sitcom babies are only born in November and May. Why? Well, November and May are when ‘sweeps’ are. That’s when networks try their best to boost ratings so they can boost advertising dollars. Since everyone loves babies, they’re considered ratings gold. Hence, why you don’t see too many big births early in a sitcom’s season…Now that Mindy Kaling doesn’t have to write a show to fit network protocols — or please advertising schedules — she’s free to have her little bundle of joy as soon as she wants on her show”
  • Consumer habits favouring the content produced and bought by online streaming services. Everybody loves a binge-watch. Everybody loves Video on Demand. Audiences choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it and for how long. This isn’t to say that traditional broadcast TV is dead – yet. Some people still enjoy the nostalgia of appointment-like TV watching. But even traditional television has been clued onto the consumer habits of wanting to chose when and how they watch content for quite some time. Hence the many years the ability to record, pause and rewind shows has been around.
  • Internet regulation and how Australian’s in particular have and continue to interact with online consumption of content. The introduction of Netflix to Australia has affected a number of things. 1) Piracy – Australian’s are pretty good at it, numbers are supposedly declining since VoD services entered the market2) The issue of Australian Netflix subscribers using VPN services to access content available in other countries – Netflix supposedly trying to ‘crack down’ on this behaviour, but is it really? Will they actually dedicate themselves to this issue or will they ease up on it? This issue leads to the discussion on making more content global. 3) Discussion regarding Australia’s terrible Internet quality. Slow speeds, poor connections, not up-to-standard infrastructure in general. In world where VoD services are only growing, Australia’s internet cannot keep up with the demands of such services.

3 thoughts on “The Disruption of Video on Demand

  1. You’ve listed some great research ideas. I particularly like your point about the content that is produced by streaming services being more diverse in race and gender. This is totally true and evident in the types of shows and movies released on Netflix in particular. I’d be interested to find out why streaming services have a tendency to produce more diverse content. Is it because they have more artistic freedom like you mentioned? Maybe it is simply because the services are not held under the glamorous spell of Hollywood prejudice and intolerance.

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  2. I’m very interested to see some research and discussion on how Video on Demand has changed the way shows are written now. We can’t even call them TV shows to identify them or differentiate them from other types of video any more! Anyway, you were right on the money when you said Netflix allowed artists to have more creative control over their works. Episodes don’t have to be built around ad breaks, seasons don’t have to be built around weekly episodes… I found this (http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/30/10647736/netflix-hulu-amazon-original-shows-streaming-tv-2015) last week that pretty much summed it up for me.

    Your last point is also very interesting. It’s actually really weird when you think about it – Netflix adheres to national borders, despite existing on a platform without them. A lot of it has to do with licensing and copyright, but even so, sticking to the old rules which were there because of the limitations of the medium through the transition to new media feels like an arbitrary restriction.

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  3. Hmm it’s interesting to think that Netflix has achieved a higher validation from it’s presence being noted at Sundance. I’ve always been baffled by the value from it, since you can have multiple users and be logged onto many more devices than I thought would be allowed.
    I think it would be really interesting to explore how the dynamic of constructing a storyline has changed with the introduction of VoD and if consumers prefer that big buildup to the end of the season/expected plots (sweeps I think you mentioned) or the spontaneity you get from something like GoT.

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