A Netflix way of life

How Netflix is changing the way we watch television


Ten years ago, going out to see a movie with a group of friends on a weekend night was like a ritual.

But that ritual seems to be changing and exchanged for nights huddled around laptop screens.

Then, it wasn’t uncommon for moviegoers to stuff purses and pockets with candy from dollar stores or fight over how much butter and salt to pour over a massive bucket of popcorn. Now, it’s just a matter of whose Netflix login you’re going to use.

Netflix, a film and television based subscription service, is making staying at home and watching a movie alone or with a group of friends “the new black.” Whether users are binge watching a prison drama or old episodes of “Law & Order,” Netflix has changed the way people consume media.

Netflix was founded in 1997 – once focused mainly on DVD rentals – and now has more than 53 million subscribers, according to its third quarter earning reports.

Netflix has permeated the lives of the college-aged crowd and 20-somethings by tickling the insatiable fancy of instant gratification.

“Netflix gives the consumer more freedom to customize,” said Charles Lindsey, associate professor of managing and marketing. “[It allows for] freedom in terms of when, freedom in terms of how, freedom in terms of what, freedom in terms of where?”

Some young people are forgoing cable in exchange for Netflix. This is referred to as “cannibalization,” a marketing term meaning one mode or channel of operation is cutting into another one and causing people not to buy into the original.

An affordable new medium

Andrew Chiang, a senior health and human services major, believes that for $8 a month, Netflix allows for a lot of content and is cheaper than a standard cable bill.

“Even though people complain about Netflix not having a huge selection, it still beats having to pay twice that amount for cable,” Chiang said. “Netflix is basically TV whenever you want it.”

Lindsey believes the younger you are, the higher the possibility you are forgoing cable in exchange for Netflix. He recognizes most college students are on a budget and are constantly looking to save money. Lindsey and Chiang agree Netflix is cost-effective for the college demographic.

Netflix is not only taking customers away from cable companies, but also it doesn’t abide by the same rules as they do.

Television networks such as HBO, Showtime and Starz, which are mandated to report their ratings, are growing increasingly annoyed by Netflix’s refusal to publish its ratings.

Last December at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York City, Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax Films and co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, interviewed Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.

Weinstein asked if Netflix would report their ratings for Netflix original series such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Sarandos said he would never do this because it “creates a benchmark that is irrelevant to the business” and would put too much pressure on shows, according to Forbes.

Competition grows

Just how much Netflix is impacting the movie industry could become apparent in August 2015, when the sequel to 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is scheduled to be released on Netflix the same day it is released in IMAX theaters.

AMC, Regal Cinemas and Cimemark are opposing the simultaneous release of the film, stating their current contracts guarantee theaters can play films for three months without competition.

The simultaneous release will be an experiment in the value people have in two different movie-watching environments – at home or in the movie theater.

“When you’re sitting in a movie row, you might have to get up to get a snack or go to the restroom,” Lindsey said. “When you get up, you may feel like you’re inconveniencing other people and you can’t pause the film.”

Competing sites such as YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video also provide video content at the fingertips of subscribers. There are stark differences, however, that make Netflix a unique model.

“The big difference when I think of a site like YouTube is that it is not a subscription-based model, it’s more of an advertising-based model,” Lindsey said. “Netflix is more traditional, free based and subscriber based.”

Additionally, Amazon is not necessarily known for producing solely video content, which seems to be a drawback for some. The idea of a company’s name standing for a certain idea is known as the “specialty effect” in marketing.

“If a restaurant just sells sea food, it’s more likely that people are going to think that they do a great job but if you have a pizza restaurant that also sells sushi, people might not get that,” Lindsey said. “It’s not to say that the sushi isn’t good, it’s just that when you just do one or two things you become known for that.”

Hours in front of your computer screen

The concept of “binge-watching,” the practice of watching copious amounts of episodes of a particular television show over a short period of time, has also revolutionized the way people watch television shows.

Both Lindsey and his 17-year-old daughter binge-watched the entire “Gilmore Girls” series, which is made up of seven seasons, over the course of a few months.

“I hate having to wait until the next week when the end of the show is a cliffhanger, so I usually wait ‘til the season is over and I binge watch [a television show],” Lindsey said.

Lindsey also enjoys binge-watching television shows such as “Orange is the New Black,” “Episodes” – now taken off Netflix Instant Watch – and “House of Cards.”

Similarly, Chiang binge watched the entire “How I Met Your Mother” series, which is comprised of 10 seasons and more than 200 episodes, in one month.

“Sometimes, my roommates and I like to stay in on Friday nights and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy,” said Shahida Khan, a sophomore biological sciences major. “All we really need is a jar of Nutella and our Netflix on a Friday night.”

Netflix has allowed for students like Samiha Islam, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, to watch the 1999 short-lived cult-classic “Freaks and Geeks.”

“I had seen endless GIFs of the show on Tumblr but Netflix gave me the opportunity to watch the one season of the show that exists in a week,” Islam said.

For Chiang, Netflix is a way for him to take a walk down memory lane into the whimsical world of his childhood. He loves to watch Disney movies like Tarzan because they have nostalgic value. He likes seeing aspects of the movies he may have overlooked as a child.

Personalizing the experience

Netflix recently introduced the concept of taste profiles, in which users can customize their Netflix to get a better idea of what to watch.

Lindsey believes that his taste profile is “semi-accurate.”

“Out of all the films and television shows that Netflix recommends for me to watch, I would say that about 50 percent of it actually gets watched,” Lindsey said.

Taste profiles also gave users like Khan, who shares her Netflix with her younger brother, to have separate interfaces for each user. This allows recommendations to be customized to the particular user on the same account.

“My little brother is really into those indie-slasher films and I always hated when Netflix would recommend them for me to watch, so when taste profiles were introduced, I was super relieved and happy,” Khan said.

But subscribers aren’t always totally happy with Netflix.

“Every now and then I look for a movie and it’s not available instantly and I get kind of annoyed,” Lindsey said. “Obviously, as a consumer in this day and age, we want something and we want it now and if it’s there and I have to order the DVD, I don’t want to wait.”

Netflix is now edging its way into producing its own original films. Netflix recently contracted with Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s movie company, to produce four Netflix original films.

“Netflix transforms the home into a multi-dimensional entertainment venue,” Lindsey said. “It makes it more acceptable to stay at home and watch a movie for the first time with your significant other.”

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