Streaming is the New Black

June 11, 2015

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Tomorrow marks the start of the third season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix, and it seems to have the TV world buzzing with excitement to see the new episodes. Where did we last leave our dysfunctional Litchfield Penitentiary family? Let’s see – Red is still hospitalized due to the severe beating she received at the hands of possibly the most hated character in OITNB history. Poor Suzanne is finally cleared of suspicions surrounding said beating. Piper enlists ex-fiancé-turned-best-friends’-lover Larry to call Alex’s parole officer claiming she’s about to skip town. Lo and behold, she’s caught with a gun and viewers are left wondering if she’s headed back to Litchfield. Cancer-stricken Rosa is on the lam, and Vee is dead. Phew!

There hasn’t been this kind of programming buzz since House of Cards’ latest season premiered a few months back…wait a minute, I also just finished watching a lesser-known Netflix series called Bloodline, which is also a dark and intense series and absolutely worth watching.  Netflix is now leading the charge that HBO started years ago – creating great programming that subscribers will keep coming back for and pay a monthly fee without hesitation.  Netflix is now 60 million subscribers strong with 40 million of those in the U.S, and has actually surpassed HBO’s numbers.  HBO certainly isn’t laying down with Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and True Detective which comes back this month as well (T-minus nine days, not that we’re counting). These guys are smart, often waiting for broadcast to go into repeats and summer programming so HBO series can dominate viewing and conversations both on and offline.

Online streaming does not stop at Netflix and HBO. Amazon has been in the game for a couple of years now with hits such as Alpha House and Transparent, which was the first original streaming series to win a Golden Globe.  Amazon creates its programming in a unique way, utilizing individuals to submit scripts for possible development. Then, those that are ultimately produced are evaluated by crowd sourcing and feedback to determine if a series will be created.  Of course Amazon’s revenue model is a bit different, making content available as an added benefit for those customers who are Amazon Prime members.  Another contender is Crackle, a site that streams Jerry Seinfeld’s series Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee.  Hulu has plenty to offer as well, including Moone Boy, Deadbeat, and The Awesomes. The list goes on with Yahoo!, YouTube, and more sites to come, so long as audiences are willing to seek out streaming services and pay for them through subscription fees or advertising.

Will all of these options continue to be viable as businesses? Only time will tell – and those that do, how will they continue to drive revenue and show growth to shareholders?  Recently Netflix began running promo videos that many believe are previews into the future of Netflix and advertising opportunities.  Of course, the CEO spoke out and dismissed the notion immediately, but the options open to advertisers today are extremely limited and require significant budgets.  If subscriber growth slows and they can’t raise monthly rates in a real way, we wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix created tiered premium levels that are ad-free, and lower levels that are ad-supported.  I guess we will just wait and see!

It’s an exciting time to be a viewer and to be in the media business, thinking and predicting how the future of viewing will continue to evolve– with cable companies offering new pricing and viewing options and Apple on the verge of getting into the TV/Video content distribution game, original content continues to emerge and thrive.

-Greg Angland, Media Director

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