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Essay: Netflix and Spotify – comparative discussion on a social-cultural basis

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  • Subject area(s): Media essays
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  • Published: 10 March 2022*
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  • Words: 2,075 (approx)
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  • Tags: Netflix essays

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As part of this assignment, I have been tasked with identifying two key players in the industry and discuss their interplay with wider cultural, economic, political and geographical phenomena. I have chosen to discuss Spotify and Netflix as part of my comparative discussion, I will be talking about them on a social-cultural basis and comparing how the effect they have both had on modern society.


Streaming media is media (music, movies, documentaries) which you watch or listen to in real time. Prior to streaming you would have to download a file onto your PC or laptop and would only be able to watch or access that file once it was downloaded. Whereas, with streaming, the file will download in the background whilst still allowing you to watch or listen to the file without delay (with the exception of poor internet connection which would result in the stream being a little slow). Netflix, YouTube, and online podcasts are all streaming media.


Netflix was founded in 1997 in Scotts Valley, California by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings. Hastings wanted to start a business where he sold products over the internet but he wasn’t quite sure what it was that he wanted to sell. Hastings was then fined $40 for a movie he rented which he returned late, as a result, he came up with the idea of renting videos out but online.

In 1998 the official Netflix website was launched. The company had around 30 employees and about 925 items available to rent. The initial idea was that customers were sent DVDs via mail on a pay-per-rental basis where late and postal fees applied. In 1999 Netflix then introduced the monthly subscription format which they still use till this present day, you pay a monthly fee and get unlimited rentals. As a result, there were no due dates to return rentals, no late fees, and no shipping or handling fees.

In 2000 Netflix came up with a new feature, a movie recommendation service. They did this by using their subscriber’s ratings, they were able to predict which movies a subscriber would most likely enjoy watching next. This was a big deal for Netflix and resulted in a rental and subscribers increase. By 2005 Netflix had accumulated a total of 4.2 million members, and by 2007 Netflix delivered its billionth DVD by mail.

In 2007, Netflix introduced another new method, video on demand streaming. This allowed subscribers to watch television shows and movies instantly on their PC’s and laptops. This is now what we call streaming media. Netflix then partnered up with electronic companies and therefore was able to bring streaming to the Xbox 360, Blu-ray disc players and smart TVs. In 2010 Netflix became available on Apple’s iPad and iPhones, Nintendo Wii, and other internet-connected devices.

Netflix then set their sights on expanding and introduced their services to Canada (2010), then Latin American countries and the Caribbean (2011). In 2012 the service became available to users in the United Kingdom and several Nordic countries.

In 2013 Netflix released its first big original series called “House of Cards” as a result they became the first internet TV network to be nominated for the Emmy awards, Netflix was able to get 31 nominations for their popular shows which included “House of Cards”, “Orange is the New Black” and “The Square”.

By 2014 Netflix had expanded to most countries. Their subscribers grew to 50 million and by 2016 Netflix was available worldwide.


Since Netflix became a global phenomenon it has had a major impact on culture and in the way in which we view television today. There’s been both negatives and positives as a result of the rise of Netflix and other streaming services. Netflix has empowered its subscribers as people can watch what they want, where and whenever they want. I guess a negative would solely be on big broadcasting companies as not as many people tune into their televisions as they use to. Traditional media such as television networks, use to be able to dictate what we watched with very little input from us the viewers on what was being broadcasted to us. But with Netflix, we are no longer dependent on tv guides or dependent on a friend’s opinion of tv show or movie as Netflix presents us with movies and tv shows based on our unique needs.

There has been an argument put forward suggesting that streaming services are beneficial to the environment. Because we are no longer buying products that will eventually become waste as we are consuming most things online now. “according to research streaming a movie requires 78% of the energy it takes to a ship a physical copy. However, even though less physical waste is created, streaming accumulates a carbon footprint that is 100% higher due to the energy required by data centers to virtually store the content.”

The TV still remains popular regardless as there’s something shown on tv that you can’t get on Netflix, for example, live sports and etc. I also believe that Netflix allows underground artists to be seen and heard as much of the Netflix original series or films are filled with unknown actors who later on go to make a name for themselves. Netflix is also able to release a series with the full season at once which traditional media cannot do, this has however created a binge culture which could be seen as a negative, as some people literally spend a whole day locked inside until they finish an entire series. Unlike tradition tv, you can watch Netflix add free which is a major plus because who wants to watch a film and be interrupted by a break every 20 minutes or so. Netflix and chill is also another culture which has developed the more popular Netflix have become, there is this phenomenon that people tend to engage in sexual activity whilst watching Netflix. So next time someone says lets Netflix and chill you know what they really mean.


Spotify was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in Stockholm Sweden. The initial concept of Spotify was to combat the piracy problem within the music industry.

Spotify started off by offering a free service with advertisement in hope that users would later turn to the add free subscription of £10 a month.

Long before streaming services such as Spotify existed, we used sites like Napster, LimeWire, and The Pirate Bay to download our music for free.

As a result of this, the music industry was losing out on millions as no one was really paying for music.

“I realised that you can never legislate away piracy,” Daniel told The Telegraph in 2010.

“The only way to solve the problem was to create a service that was better than piracy and at the same time compensates the music industry”.


Not long after Spotify, you had other platforms trying to get a piece of the pie.

Apple who are Spotify’s biggest rivals also created a streaming platform in 2015. They were able to obtain exclusive deals with artist such as Drake. Frank Ocean and Taylor Swift meaning they were the first ones allowed to stream those artists music.

But unlike Spotify Apple allowed it’s users to pay per download of a song or album. But just like Spotify Apple eventually introduced a monthly paying subscription.

Spotify operates by obtaining its content from major labels and also independent artists, Spotify will then pay the artists, songwriters and labels royalties for the music being streamed.

Taylor Swift was one of the very first artists to show discontent with Spotify for how much royalties they paid artists. She even went as far as labeling the whole platform an “experiment”.

“ I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, and creator of this music.” She told Yahoo.


Just like Netflix Spotify gives us the consumers what we want, when we want and wherever we want. It provides us with a library of music readily available to us just like Netflix provides us with a library of films, tv shows, and documentaries. And this is why they are both doing so well and thriving. Spotify has changed the music culture just like Netflix has changed the television culture. Spotify allows you to create your own fan base within Spotify by allowing you to create a playlist which other people could follow, this would give the subscribers a feeling of empowerment as they will feel like they are in control. It’s exactly the same way Netflix makes their subscribers feel with the unique selection they offer depending on the person’s interests. Spotify also does a similar thing where they create weekly playlists for subscribers based on the music they have listened to that week. As a result of this Spotify and Netflix have both created a culture where they allow their subscribers to feel like they are in control. Spotify has built a culture where they allow their subscribers to interconnect with each other and find common ground as you are able to see what playlists your followers follow and therefore you would be able to identify yourself within a group.

“You can discover hits from around the world with Spotify’s Global Cultures initiative”

Spotify has playlists that cater to everyone no matter the culture or language if you’re feeling for some Mexican music you can find a Mexican playlist with the latest Mexican hits. Most hits in the UK are largely focused on the English language but about “1 in 4 Spotify users around the world listen to artists from a culture (or country different from their own”. Thanks to Spotify discovering top songs and the coolest instrumentals from around the world is now easier than ever before. A feature like this is so important to the society we live in today because many people no longer live in their country of origin and Spotify still allows them to feel connected to their roots with such playlists. “For example, 15 million Lebanese live in Brazil more than in Lebanon itself”. Just imagine if they couldn’t access music from their home country whilst in Brazil. Netflix also offers a similar feature with the International films section they have available.

Netflix and Spotify were both successful in deterring the piracy culture which existed prior to them.

Both platforms offer streaming services, through subscription, and attractive pricing. Both were able to strike a deal with content owners, and as a result, there was a cultural shift in the way in which we consume content. Both these platforms contributed to the end of the physical ownership culture we once had.


  • They both offer a what you could call “All you can eat menu”
  • Both their interfaces are simple to use and consumer friendly, compared to the more complex and inconvenient approach presented by digital piracy.
  • They both offer high-quality streaming and a service that’s constantly improving
  • Both these platforms have bred a culture where they start up discussions because of how easily it is to access both platforms. Anything you’ve watched on Netflix your colleague or a friend is also most likely to have watched or be aware of it.
  • Both platforms facilitate content discovery via sophisticated algorithms which generate personalised recommendations for their subscribers. This has brought about a culture where we’re always looking out for the latest series to watch or music to listen to on Netflix and Spotify.
  • Due to the agreement, Netflix and both Spotify have with content owners they are able to release content prior to anyone else.


I have come to the conclusion that Spotify and Netflix are very much similar to each and operate in the same manner. Both platforms are advocates for diversity as they both do not discriminate and cater to everyone on their platforms, regardless of ethnicity, cultural and social background. Both platforms are available to everyone regardless of social class or financial status. Both platforms have had a huge impact on today’s media culture and changed the way we consume media contents. Both are advocates for customer empowerment and not only do they both cater to customer needs but they also cater to individual customer needs through the playlists on Spotify and the recommendations on Netflix.


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