The battle for Netflix to achieve the currant media dominance that it now possesses is not a new one. According to Cameron Lindsey there was a 113% increase from 2013 in those who consume media based on online services, subscriptions, etc. which would show that there is an obvious spike in these forms of media means of consumption other than cable. In 2014 Netflix boasted 15.4 million users according to Lindsey, and that number continues to grow.
Gerald Sim points out that, were Netflix one of the many films it allows subscribers to access, the plot would all but write itself. The classic underdog protagonist, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, overthrew the powerhouse that was Blockbuster and former Blockbuster CEO John Antioco. Eventually Netflix managed to change the industry of media consumption altogether and climb to the top, beating out cable and classic movie and TV schedules alike, even stemming so far as to call television the classic stock villain in the eyes of Hollywood.
But what was the real goal of this plot’s protagonist? To rescue viewers from the horrors of “managed dissatisfaction” and essentially eliminate the concept of waiting entirely. No longer would viewers have to wait for the proper time to see a show, or wait a year for a new season—they wouldn’t have to wait at all, and that is the whole point. The main focus was to enunciate the concept of “time-switching” and being able to give people what they want, when they wait it, to such a degree that consumers couldn’t possibly think of going to any other media provider. This included access to binge-watching, for better or for worse, despite Sim’s notes on binge-watching being connected to indulgence, compulsion, and loss of self-control.
While the story of Netflix’s rise to power is an obviously cinematic one, there are challenges which Netflix must overcome as well. The rise of competition is a main one, as Lindsey noted. Netflix has been reaching into a wider array of audiences and niche-markets internationally, where other streaming sources already exist and hold a large target market. One example of this is the popularity of anime being accessible through Crunchyroll, which would increase competition for Netflix.
By no means is Crunchyroll the only competition Netflix faces. In fact, it is likely one of the smallest threats. Extralegal sources and illegal websites are rampant, and offer viewers quite a few alternatives if they are willing to risk a virus. YouTube is becoming a media giant where users can upload their own content for even more specified niche-markets than the ones Netflix can target. Production costs are a blatant issue, because with the mass amounts of content that Netflix is creating, they must keep up with audience demand and interest, which means many forms of media must be better than what came before it which hikes up costs quite a bit.
One of the few things which doesn’t seem to threaten the protagonist-worthy Netflix is the potential previous antagonist of Blockbuster. Ever since Blockbuster CEO James W. Keyes suggested cutting the online portion of the business and return to only video rental stores, then refused to even sell the online Blockbuster to get some of their original investment back, Blockbuster had lost nearly half of their subscribers and Netflix was flourishing once again after a period of precarious teetering. The antagonist basically defeated itself while Netflix was in its very grasp. Blockbuster is down for the count and likely won’t be heard from again, but that doesn’t mean Netflix is invincible quite yet.
Carolyn Marvin pointed out that media is defined by how society uses them, and Netflix is no exception. Society’s use of Netflix in the future could change. The more variety and agency which blossoms from Netflix may not be a constant. Society’s interest could drift elsewhere, as it often does with time. There are still challenges, and still other potential competitions which could rise up, but for now, Netflix should enjoy it’s time at the top of the pedestal—it is unlikely to be knocked down any time soon.