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Essay: Netflix: Impact on Entertainment Media Consumption and Future Speculations

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Does Netflix affect people’s behavior of consuming entertainment media and what would happen in the future?

In recent years, there are significant developments of technology such as smartphones, the internet and social media which gradually alter how people perceive and consume media. Over-the-top (OTT) services which are platforms that use the internet to provide viewers various types of movies or TV series rather than using cable or satellite (McDonald and Smith-Rowsey, 2016). Netflix is one of the well-known OTT providers. After the subscription to Netflix, this streaming service provides viewers various kind of contents and allows them to watch these contents without any limit.

Due to how convenience user can approach to Netflix combines with other significant strategies that it uses, there are arguments that believe Netflix raises the negative behavior and affects the way people consume entertainment media such as binge viewing (Jenner, 2016).

In this essay, I will delve into how Netflix influence viewer behavior based on related publications and the interview of Kalila Shapiro, who provides personal perspective of her experiences using Netflix. I will analyze the reason why viewers choose Netflix over other streaming services, and the key factors that make Netflix more popular in some countries than others. The negative behavior, the criteria of binge viewing and key strategic that Netflix use which may raise this behavior will be evaluated. Furthermore, I will examine the potential of Netflix’s feature such as “movie-suggestion”. Finally, I will then turn to the possibilities of Netflix’s features and the speculations of the future of entertainment industry.

In 2013, the number of users who subscribe to the streaming services such as Netflix are escalated from 35 to 40 percent (Lindsey, 2016). It is also confirmed by Neilson Total Audience Report for 2014 claims that around 2.6 million American subscribe to broadband platforms such as OTT services, online platforms or apps which shows the rocketed rises 113 percent from 2013 (Nielsen, 2014). This means people are interesting in OTT service more than the past and the number indicates the substantial growth in this business.

Even though there are numerous streaming services, Netflix is one of the most well-known company. As Lindsey (2016) indicates that Netflix has several strong points which make it stands out from other competitors such as its original content, commercial advertising and brand identity.  

After I analyzed related publications and the interview with Kalila, the complementary points that I found is content. By providing high quality content to only Netflix subscribers is considered as one of the strongest selling points of Netflix (Lindsey, 2016). Similarly, Kalila claims that she chose the streaming services based on what contents it has and Netflix provides her various types of media which mostly cover her preferences. Furthermore, she also believes that the popular Netflix original series such as Orange Is the New Black is another reason why people tend to subscribe to Netflix. That is to say, from both literature and user perspective agree that content is the main reason that persuade people to subscribe to Netflix.   

The following beneficial point of using Netflix is it offers less commercial advertise than other streaming service. Lindsey (2016), points out that, normally, other streaming services such as Hulu force users to sit through commercials before or even in the middle of the shows. This causes unpleasant experience and sometime annoy the viewers. Likewise, Kalila argues that another reason why she selects Netflix because she does not have to cope with commercials during the shows. She also explained that she would be frustrate and upset if the commercials constantly appeared while she was enjoying her shows. This means, Netflix provides the new experience of consuming media, without commercials, to the users and it slowly develops them to have less control of their patience while perceive the advertisements. It cannot be denied that because the of this platform, it builds up specific behavior to the viewers which they get used to no commercial habit. This makes it more difficult for them to participate with other streaming services or unsubscribe to Netflix.

It is impossible for streaming service to provide all of the shows to their subscribers. Even though Netflix also has this limitation such as movie choices, it is still popular. Kalila identifies that there are variety of the shows on Netflix if compares to others. Even if it does not include some specific show that she prefers, it does not mean that it will make Netflix less popular. Moreover, all of shows that already on Netflix might enough to satisfy other users.

Apart from numerous media genre contribution. Dwyer, Shim, Lee and Hutchinson (2018), also point out others several key features that make Netflix more popular in Australia than South Korea which are price and payment method, language and local content.

One reason that make Netflix less popular in Korea is the competitiveness of OTT price. The average cost of local TV services in Australia cost around 70 US dollar per month while Netflix monthly cost them 13.99 US dollar (Moon, 2015). To compare with, TV services in Korea cost around 7 US dollar which is lower than Korea Netflix monthly price 7.99 US dollar. Moreover, the video services in Korea offer the excessively low price to the users or even free of charge (A Case Study, 2016). This means, Australian tend to subscribe to Netflix which provides better lower price to them. On the other hand, most of Korean users are more attracted to local TV services rather than Netflix. Another related issue to the price competitiveness is the payment method. Due to Korean customers are familiar with pay-per-view (Dwyer, Shim, Lee and Hutchinson (2018). That is to say, Korean watching habit is contrast with Netflix monthly subscription. This matter gives Netflix the difficulties to expand their market in Korea.

The following critical factor that Netflix need to consider when they enlarge their market overseas is language. Stiegler (2016), claims that Netflix provides users around the world with various program in other language including high quality subtitles or even dubbed into diverse native language such as Germany. This beneficial point gives Netflix stands out from other competitors. However, Choi, Strabharr and Tamborini (1988) argues that the quality of Korea subtitles often varies. Even though Korean people keen to watch Hollywood movies, they usually watch it with Korean subtitles. It is clearly seen that Australia does not have the same issue because their mother language is English. In other words, it is true that Netflix may offers better standards of subtitles or dub service in some countries, but in Korea specifically, the quality has not met the satisfaction standards of Korean. It is undeniable that language is another barrier that holds the growth of Netflix in Korea.

Another point that helps Netflix maintain Australian subscribers is the local content that Netflix produced. Although Australian enjoy blockbuster movies, they also keen and support their local content, Mako Mermaids. In contrast, Netflix does not contribute the local content in Korea as they do to Australia while Korea local TV market have the ability to supply a large number of appealing contents to their Citizen (Dwyer, Shim, Lee and Hutchinson, 2018). That is to say, Netflix play as the seminal local content provider in Australia more than in Korean and it cannot compete with Korea entertainment industry. This is another reason why Netflix popularity rate in Australia is higher than Korea.

Since streaming services like Netflix began, the rate of viewers binging behavior is rocketed. As McCormick (2016), defines binge viewing as watching two to three episodes within one sitting. He indicates that binge viewing is not a new circumstance. It began a long time ago for instance, watching DVD. However, he argues that streaming service, Netflix, substantially raise and expand this behavior within past few years. By using Netflix services, its interfaces such as “auto play” function give smoother experiences which unconsciously encourage users to continue watching. While watching DVD requires users to use DVD materials but Netflix requires none.

Despite the fact that, Kalila believes binging is the natural behavior of human, Netflix amplifies this behavior. She also suggests that because of Netflix format, it creates more convenience for users to interact with which eventually makes users become binge watchers. Apart from that, Netflix offers multiple choices of devices for user to connect to its services. This means, users are not limited to use only TV to watch the shows. They can use laptops, smartphones or even tablets which users literally can enjoy the streaming anytime anywhere.

It is obvious that, both perspectives agreed on that Netflix does not create binge behavior, nevertheless, it rapidly develops binging through its platforms, smooth experience and connection.

When Netflix original series, House of Cards (2013), was launched. It grabs most both Netflix and other viewer attentions which later become a trend at that time. With its success, it creates massive binge phenomenon to American People. The key strategies that McCormick (2016) believes Netflix uses to make viewers excessively binging to this series are method of distribution, interaction of time between story line and real-world and finally using direct message.

One of the most effective strategy that Netflix develop binge viewing is distribution. Before the date that Netflix launched the series. According to Stelter (2018), Netflix showrunner, Beau Willimon states that “Our goal is to shut down a portion of America for a whole day”. After that, they released the entire House of Cards season, which are thirteen chapters, all at once. This means, people can watch from the beginning to the last chapters within a day. Due to its continuity, viewers can easily immense themselves into the whole shows without any break. Likewise, Kalila indicates that this strategy is the key tactic because of House of Cards is the new series, new content. Normally it will boost viewer curiosity that they want to find out what will happen next. Another interesting aspect is people will finish the season as fast as they can, so that they can feel relevant while having related conversation with their friends. That is to say, Netflix distribution strategy definitely offer viewer the opportunity to the extreme watching which escalates the binge viewing rate.

Another key strategy to consider is the relation of time between story line and real-world. McCormick (2016), claims that Netflix intentionally choose the actual release date that close to the beginning date in the series. While people are watching the shows, they will feel that the show drives them into the future. Whereas, Kalila argues that most of the show nowadays often use this method. She admits that it is true that this strategy makes the show more relevant, but it might not the main issue that offer people to have binge behavior. In other words, it might be true that this method might be practical when the whole episodes were released, but it might not apply when the show was released weekly.

The final tactic that Netflix apply to this series is using direct message. This method is using by character in the series call “Frank”, which often looks into the camera and say his dialogue, for example “Welcome to Washington”. When viewers watch the series, that gaze makes viewers feel like the character is talking to them. At that point, the intimacy relationship between character and users was built McCormick (2016). In contrast, Kalila points out that this technique is outdated and has been use in the movie industry for time, for instance, the movie calls “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is an example that use the similar method which launched since 1986. This is to say, the intimacy connection that was developed base on this strategy makes viewers attract to the series, but it is clear that it is less appeal if compares to the past.  

In my opinion, I believe that each tactic that Netflix use escalates the binge behavior in the different levels. The key important strategy potentially be the distribution method. However, it seems to me that the most effective way to creates binge phenomenon is to combine all of these strategies together as Netflix did.

Normally, Netflix subscriber are used to the “Movie suggestion” tab on the landing page. Alexander (2016), claims that this feature has been developed since 2000 and the key function is to analyze user information and suggest the relevant movie choices that users might like. He also points out that the system tracks the interactions between service and users which the algorithm will generate the result back the individual user the next time they log in to the Netflix server. Of course, the purpose of this feature is to give the broader possibility of media choices that users may enjoy. It is true to some extent as Kalila agrees that this feature is useful in the time that she cannot find the show that she wants to watch on Netflix, due to Netflix constantly take the show out.  However, she claims that most of the suggested shows are absolutely not relevant to her preference.

Furthermore, with my interviewee, I point out and raise the conspiracy theory of whether Netflix using movie suggestion feature as their tools to promote their own original series. Kalila absolutely agree and then explained that she now remembered that there are Netflix original series band, which is normally on the top right corner of the show thumbnail, on most of the show Netflix recommended to her.

In other words, movie suggestion feature might not generate productive results to satisfy users, but it is an interesting way to introduce new content to Netflix subscribers, even though, most of them are their own original series.

After considered the Netflix popularity, binge behavior and feature strategies, we then will probe the future possibility of Netflix and entertainment media. From Kalila point of view, she speculates that in the future users will use less cables and wires, nevertheless, the actual television will still exist. There will be more several products that similar to Apple TV which user can choose any selection that contain in it such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. She assumes that the connection between devices will be sufficient and make the shifting across devices while watching media more convenience and simpler as it is now.

Since 2017, Netflix has launched, especially for children, the interactive storytelling calls “Puss in Book”. This animated movie provides options to the users to select. Each chosen option will affect the movie story line. Moreover, according to Robinson (2018), Netflix will release a similar interactive series, target the adult audiences, call “Black Mirror” in 2018.

That is to say, Netflix creates the opportunity for viewers to participate and let themselves immerse into the story which they can manipulate and control the outcome of each option that they select.

  From my point of view, I believe that Netflix will gains its popularity by launch this platform, as it is the new way that media industry presents their content for people to engage with the story. Indeed, it is true that most people may enjoy watching and participate with this platform which they must spend two to three times more than they spent for one episode. As a consequence, the binge behavior would escalate.

Kalila agrees and points out that users would explore several other options that they have not choose in the first place. They keen to know what will happened if they select in the different directions.  While Kalila admits that there are massive possibilities that we will encounter more with this platform in the future, but personally she considers that the idea might not suits her lifestyle. Due to the fact that Kalila usually uses Netflix to provides her the background noise while she is doing her work. If the select time comes, of course it will require her interaction and will definitely annoys her. Another significant issue that Kalila raised is that adult would use this platform towards their children which will definitely affects their thinking development.

In other words, it is obvious that interactive features are suits to some type of people. The better way to provides smooth interaction experience to users that I believe Netflix could do is release both non-interactive and interactive one. By this way, users can choose the appropriate feature at the beginning for their own situation that they are going to encounter. Some people in leisure time, they might need to enjoy what the show provides them but on the other hand if they are in the party, they might feel exciting to enjoy and interact with this platform.

This essay has argued that Netflix affects people behavior of consuming entertainment media. First, it has considered the reasons why users choose Netflix rather than other streaming services and the keys why Netflix is more popular in Australia than Korea. It is clear that binge behavior is rapidly developed due to the numerous strategies that Netflix uses for example, by providing its own original contents, the distribution method, the manipulation of time while released the shows, using direct message technique to builds intimacy relationship and the interactive feature.

Despite the fact that Netflix gives their subscribers the better pleasant experiences of using their service, it also rapidly develops binge behavior to the users at the same time. In the near future, in my opinion, binge viewing should expand and become normal habits as the Netflix and others technology would offers more engaging platforms with different specific approach for diverse groups of people.

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