From the arrival of the first television in the 1920s, the technology has steadily taken off and is now a household staple. However, for the first time since the early 40s television is actually on the decline.
“How can this be?” you might be wondering, well, a major cause for this decline is the emergence of “over-the-top television.” This is television media provided by a third party through internet streaming- not through a cable/service provider. One of the biggest examples of this is the company Netflix.
The streaming technology used by Netflix is what’s called a “progressive stream.” This allows users to access Netflix on demand and has a server large enough to allow for many simultaneous viewers. So each individual Netflix user can access any show or movie, at any time, on any device with internet.
The increased use in streaming for entertainment has created a rise in “cord-cutting,” the process of canceling cable or satellite TV subscriptions for an alternative Internet-based or wireless service. This is one of the major reasons we are seeing a decline in television. Many consumers are seeing online streaming video services, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. as a great (and cheaper) alternative to the traditional, scheduled, cable-provided television. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, 19% of young adults have dropped cable or satellite TV service and 16% have just not signed up for a TV subscription in the first place.
Not only has this online video streaming technology changed the medium through which we get television, but it’s also changed the way we watch television.
The rise in the use of streaming technology has fostered new television viewing habits. Streaming allows us to watch show after show without commercial interruption and automatically cues the next episode without skipping a beat. Before you know it, you’ve watched 6 episodes of LOST and don’t know where 6 hours of your life have gone. This is now known as”binge-watching.”
Binge-watching by definition is, “the practice of watching multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.” (Oxford Dictionary). This definition is a bit vague, so Netflix conducted a survey in 2013 to find out how it’s viewers defined binge-watching. The survey revealed that “the majority of people define it as watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.”
The traditional way of watching TV (where you would need to wait a week before you could watch the next episode) is on the decline. Most viewers with access to streaming just wait for the show to be released on Netflix or Hulu so they can watch the entire season without weekly cliffhangers or commercial interruption. In 2014 alone, consumers watched 5.1 billion hours of Netflix content. (DMR). Binge-watching may seem like a negative thing, as it takes away large amounts of your free time, but it is widely accepted as a social norm these days.
As many as 50% of adults identify as a binge-viewer and 53% of 18-24 year olds say they binge on a daily or weekly basis. (PwC). The 2013 Netflix survey revealed that 73% of people polled admitted that they have positive feelings about binge-watching. Many people find it makes the viewing experience much more immersive and engaging. Releasing shows whole seasons at a time allows the viewers to have control over the way they watch it. They can watch at their own pace and fit it to their own schedule, giving the consumer much more power than traditional, linear television does.
This new way of watching television has put a lot of pressure on TV networks. With networks losing viewers at a rapid pace, they’ve begun to try to adopt many of the characteristics of online streaming services. (BGR).They are trying to create shows where the storyline is told more episodically over a season instead of standalone shows that we see so often in sitcoms. TBS even released an entire season of a show as one long marathon- which worked! The statistics showed that 30% of the viewers watching that show had never tuned into TBS before.
Advertisers are feeling the effects of online streaming as well. The estimated amount of commercials that Netflix users aren’t watching because they aren’t watching broadcast television is 130 hours of commercials per year. (DMR). Advertisers are now trying to change their formula by using more product placement within the shows streamed online, since they are not reaching many consumers through traditional mediums anymore.
Streaming technology has been on the rise since the mid-2000s, and in those few short years, it has completely changed the way we receive and view television. Who know’s where broadcast television or Netflix will be in the next 10 years, but as it looks currently, traditional TV will have to adapt to the new ways of consumer viewing. But hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.